Shopping

July 22, 2014

22July2014 Shopping

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. A very dry day

ScrabbleIwins, but gets under 400. perhaps Marywill win tomorrow.

Obituary:

Baroness Miller of Hendon – obituary

Baroness Miller of Hendon was a cosmetics entrepreneur who launched an ill-starred bid to become Tory Mayor of London

Doreen Miller entering the race for Conservative London mayoral candidate in 1999

Doreen Miller entering the race for Conservative London mayoral candidate in 1999 Photo: PA

5:54PM BST 21 Jul 2014

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Baroness Miller of Hendon, who has died aged 81, was a north London housewife who founded the International Beauty Club, offering mail-order cosmetics to the woman of the 1970s, attracting 750,000 subscribers and their cash.

Doreen Miller became a campaigner for more women in Parliament after nearly 100 Conservative constituencies turned her down. Created a life peer by John Major, she served as a government whip and Opposition spokesman in the Lords.

She is best remembered latterly for her attempt in 1999 to become the first Conservative candidate for Mayor of London after Jeffrey Archer had withdrawn. Launching her “Call Me Doreen” campaign, backed by senior women in the party machine and with Lord Harris of Peckham providing the funding, she was soon tipped as favourite for the Tory nomination. But the wheels came off when she was interviewed on the Today programme, and party members instead chose Steve Norris, who months later was defeated by Ken Livingstone.

She was a 37-year-old solicitor’s wife and magistrate with three young sons when she decided to start her own business. She took a beauty course, surveyed the market and launched the International Beauty Club on Valentine’s Day 1972.

The concept was simple: “lucky dips” of quality cosmetics at half the shop price. Doreen Miller – described as “breathlessly cheerful” by an interviewer – bought 50,000 of four manufacturers’ products and produced her first kit of perfume sprays, make-up and false eyelashes, importing 2½ tons of pink polyester wrapping.

The Club’s first advertisement was placed in a magazine that never appeared owing to the disruptions caused by that winter’s miners’ strike. She faced far worse, however, when armed robbers stormed her hairdressers while she was having a trim. Despite having a gun held to her head for 30 minutes, a computer breakdown at her office compelled her to go in to work once she had been freed. Only once the problem had been resolved did she return home to have hysterics.

Despite these obstacles to success, thousands of letters were soon pouring in for the first beauty kit, priced at £1 plus postage. Two months later came the lemon-coloured second kit, at £2. By that October the Club had 42,000 members, mostly young marrieds.

Many letters also sought advice, so Doreen Miller became a beauty agony aunt. “So many women think they have something ghastly wrong with their nose or their mouth or something,” she said. “I seem someone indeterminate to write to.”

In 1975 she distilled this experience into a book, Let’s Make Up! Asserting that women use make-up “to make themselves feel good”, she gave such valuable hints as “how to make up while your egg is boiling”, “how to look good at bedtime” and “the right way to apply foundation”. The best thing for a woman’s skin, she insisted, was soap and water.

Doreen Miller extended her Club to Germany and Australia, and by 1979 it was turning a profit of £500,000. She remained its chairman and managing director until 1988.

Doreen Miller in her office in 1999 (STEPHEN HIRD)

She was born Doreen Feldman on June 13 1933, the daughter of Bernard Feldman, who had a furniture business. After Brondesbury and Kilburn high school she read Law at LSE and qualified as a solicitor (also gaining an MA from Hull University).

With her business up and running, she became an active Conservative, and in 1981 – two years into Margaret Thatcher’s premiership – was put on the candidates’ list, declaring: “I’m too old to fight and lose just for the experience.” Over five years she tried for 91 seats, being given an interview at just nine.

Tory selection committees, she said, believed women should not try for Parliament until they had raised their families, then ruled them out as too old. Having a woman as party leader did not necessarily help, either.

She became chairman and executive director of the 300 Group, an all-party body campaigning for more women MPs, and chairman of the Women Into Public Life Campaign.

From 1993 she was the Conservatives’ Greater London chairman. Major rewarded her that year with a life peerage, and in 1994 appointed her a Baroness in Waiting (government whip). She spoke for the government on health, education and employment, and welcomed President and Mrs Clinton at Heathrow on behalf of the Queen.

In opposition from 1997, Lady Miller continued as a whip. Two years later William Hague made her a spokesman on trade and industry, a portfolio she held until 2006.

She was appointed MBE in 1989.

Doreen Feldman married, in 1955, Henry Miller, with whom she had three sons.

Baroness Miller of Hendon, born June 13 1933, died June 21 2014

Guardian:

The fact that 52 schools and colleges in England failed to enter any pupils for science and maths A-levels in 2012-13 is incredibly worrying and raises serious questions (Report, 18 July). We know that employers look for graduates with the analytical and problem-solving skills these subjects instil. One million new science, technology and engineering professionals will be required in the UK by 2020, yet there is a persistent dearth of young people taking these qualifications after the age of 16. Why aren’t these schools encouraging students to take subjects that will expand their career opportunities?

The government is right to encourage more young people to take science and mathematics past the age of 16. In fact, in a recent Royal Society report, Vision for Science and Mathematics Education, we go further by calling for both subjects to be compulsory to age 18, as part of a broad baccalaureate-style qualification. This reform is absolutely vital to the UK’s future prosperity.

Schools which have low numbers of students taking mathematics and science A-levels must look closely at their culture. There is evidence that girls are still deterred from studying these qualifications because they feel they are somehow masculine or unfeminine. Teachers should ensure they promote these subjects to all, and young people understand the importance of being mathematically and scientifically literate to their future lives and employment prospects.
Professor Julia Higgins
Chair, Royal Society education committee

•  How depressing to read that Nick Gibb, the education minister, thinks the best reason to study maths and science is because the subjects have “the highest earnings potential”. When I was a secondary school teacher, I taught physics, and my A-level students studied it, for many reasons: its excitement and topicality; the intellectual stimulation; the sheer beauty of some of the underlying mathematics; its usefulness to humanity; and the fun of getting to grips with how the world works.

What never crossed my mind – and I doubt it crossed my pupils’ minds either – was that the main reason for studying it was a selfish financial one. That one ministerial comment sums up so much of what has gone wrong – and not only with our education system.
Albert Beale
London

•  The unequal opportunity for sixth-formers to study A-level subjects stems from the Department for Education’s own policies to politically and financially buttress small, inefficient school sixth forms.

Analysis of Department for Education performance tables by the Sixth Form Colleges Association shows that the 1,807 schools entering students for A-level in 2010 offered 15 subjects on average each, while the 92 sixth-form colleges analysed offered an average of 36. A quarter of school sixths offered fewer than 10 subjects, 10% fewer than five, and only 10% offered more than 24.

Subject by subject, 90% of colleges entered students for chemistry, compared with 72% of school sixths; for biology the figures were 92% and 80% respectively, for further maths 80% and 28.7%, for computer science 64% and 7.4%.

Research this year by London Economics demonstrated that the average expenditure on educating a pupil in an academy sixth form is £6,345; in a maintained-school sixth form £5,693; and in a sixth-form college £4,560. This includes subsidies to schools denied to colleges: differential insurance rates; VAT rebates and higher capital funding rates. Heads can also cross-subsidise from their 11-16 to their 16-18 cohorts to afford the status of having a sixth form.

Despite this, the sixth-form college sector remains relatively highly successful: London Economics also calculated the cost to the taxpayer per Ucas point score per entry between providers, and concluded that even the most cost-effective schools significantly underperform in relation to the least cost-effective of colleges.
Simon Hinks
Brighton

• On Friday, the announcement by schools minister David Laws (Schools to get an extra £390m, 18 July) was presented as new money.

Even the guarded welcome by the leaders of headteachers’ unions concentrated on general underfunding, and in particular the impact of pension fund increases on schools as employers.

The projected increase to schools in the 69 local authorities described as “lowest funded” does indeed in some areas arise from a historic anomaly stemming from the choice of local taxpayers to prefer lower tax bills to higher spending on education. The increase also arises in part from the recognition that deep-seated deprivation in the urban core required additional government grant.

This re-announcement – increasing the previous £350m by £40m – misses the point by a mile and hides the fundamental fact that this “new” money is nothing of the sort. It is a redistribution of funding top-sliced from the schools budget as a whole from April next year.

All state-funded schools (except new free schools) will have their budgets frozen in cash terms, not for inflation. In other words, every other school in the country will be paying the price for the substantial uplift in areas such as Cambridgeshire and Surrey.
David Blunkett MP
Labour, Sheffield Brightside & Hillsborough

Demo threat to U2 Glastonbury show

Liam Jonson, Roxanne Wood, Aisha Ali and Steve Taylor, members of Art Uncut, at the Glastonbury festival in 2011, where they protested against the tax arrangements of Bono’s band U2. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

It is unfortunate that the letter from Graca Machel to David Cameron on the UN development goals and climate change is jointly signed by, among others, Bono of U2 (Report, 18 July). Delivering tax justice would do more to tackle global poverty than probably any other single policy change, something the millennium development goals failed to address. Bono needs to decide: is he a champion of world development or a tax dodger? He cannot be both, and there’ll be no global movement to unite development, climate and human rights if that movement has Bono the tax dodger as a figurehead.
Paul Brannen MEP
Labour, North East England

• Our children, aged seven and five came up with a novel suggestion for how London Zoo could deal with unruly visitors at its Friday-night parties (Billed as ‘London’s wildest night out’ – but not much fun for the tigers and penguins, 19 July): a new enclosure showcasing “naughty grown-ups who hurt the animals”.
Tanveer Ahmed and Nick Mahony
London

• The really shocking fact is that Isabella Acevedo was paid only £30 for four hours of cleaning and ironing in central London (Former immigration minister’s Colombian cleaner arrested at wedding, 19 July). We pay £10 an hour in Sheffield.
Jo Tomalin
Sheffield

• The political demise of Dominic Grieve (Editorial, 16 July) reminds me of his father Percy’s first attempt to stand for parliament in 1962. Posters demanding “Grieve for Lincoln” were soon removed, but he still lost to Labour’s Dick Taverne.
Mike Broadbent
Luton

• James Garner’s wonderful acting career (Obituary, 21 July) included his part as God in the animation “God, the Devil and Bob”, from NBC in 2000, much loved by my then teenage family. I sadly texted them: “God is dead”.
Sally Hotson
Forres, Moray

• When I was working in Nigeria, someone not coming into the office the day after tomorrow was described as “Not on seat next tomorrow” (Could the oxt-word improve your social life, G2, 21 July).
Brian Lloyd
Bradley, Staffordshire

Mel Gibson as William Wallace in Braveheart: Celt or Anglo-Saxon? Photograph: Cinetext/PARAMOUNT/Allstar Picture Library

I’m surprised that someone of the intellect and depth of Madeleine Bunting should play the “British” card in this way (My British identity is in Scotland’s hands now, 21 July). Regardless of how the vote goes on 18 September, we will all remain British. “British” is geographical, in the same way as citizens of Sweden, Denmark and Norway are Scandinavian, and those in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are Baltic. Many of us in Scotland do not have a problem with voting yes while retaining a “British identity”.

We are not therefore opting out of being British, we simply want to opt out of a UK lorded over by a government in Westminster that rides roughshod over the democratic process, regardless of the concerns of the people of these islands. In Scotland, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change this for the better for all of us, to galvanise the way the entire island of Britain (yes, Britain) is governed. If yes does prevail, then perhaps the remaining parts of the UK will follow suit, and demand – at the very least – more devolution of power to the other countries and regions of Britain.
Anne Roberts
Isle of Arran

• Madeleine Bunting is against Scottish independence because the union boosts her sense of Britishness. There is something more important, the abject poverty of thousands of Scots. This will continue as long as Scotland is ruled by the House of Commons, where all the major parties have enforced massive welfare cuts. An independent Scotland offers the chance of greater equality and policies which respect not condemn the poor. That is more important than a sense of Britishness.
Bob Holman
Glasgow

• ”Scotland is a Celtic nation”, writes Madeleine Bunting. Not so. The vast majority of Scots are Anglo-Saxons.

The bulk of Scots have always spoken English and have borne Saxon names. Edinburgh means Edin’s Burgh. The Celts were driven into the highlands and the far west. They have been a small minority throughout Scotland’s history.
Emo Williams
Shere, Surrey

•  Madeleine Bunting says that “Britishness” is important to her. Emailing a friend about her article, I was surprised to find that “Britishness” was not recognised by my spellchecker, which offered the alternatives “brutishness” or “boorishness.” I tried another couple of words. “Scottishness” does not exist, though “Cattiness” and “Skittishness” are possible alternatives. Only “Englishness” passed muster without quibble. Out of the mouths of babes and spellcheckers.
Frank McCallum
Glasgow

• Irvine Welsh is right to say that neither Ireland nor the US shows signs of wanting to return to rule by the UK (Independence day?, Review, 19 July). But is he also suggesting there is no corruption or elitism in either of those countries? Is he also suggesting that Scotland would be completely free of elites and corruption once independent?
Philip Clayton
London

• If there is a possibility of splitting the United Kingdom, why is that a matter for one partner only?
Jon Chamberlain
Faringdon, Oxfordshire

Michael Gove: responsible for ‘a self-perpetuating and potentially unrepresentative system of overseeing the running of schools’. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Trojan Horse invokes another animal metaphor: chickens coming home to roost (Fears of Islamophobia gave activists free rein, 19 July). The neoliberal urge to “free schools from local authority control” has been shown to have its limitations. More than 20,000 public institutions need more checks and balances and, crucially, some kind of local oversight if pupils are to make academic and social progress. The rush towards more academies and free schools has demonstrated the limitations to a “do your own thing” strategy.

That Ofsted appears not to be as independent as it needs to be is a further problem. Its change of criteria in the case of Birmingham schools over a period of a couple of months makes its monitoring and quality assurance role less secure. The vast majority of schools welcome expert evaluation, and they do not see this as a challenge to their proper autonomy in curricular and pedagogic matters. There are also larger questions about a need for rigorous evidence as opposed to hearsay and extremist tendencies in faith schools more generally. Over to you, Nicky Morgan.
Professor Margaret Maden
Oxford

• Laura McInerney’s account of her attempts to get documents about applications to setting up “free” schools into the public realm (Education, 15 July) raises questions of academic freedom, public policy, political accountability, and public trust. Her application was ultimately rejected because of the costs of “redacting” the documents. There can be no valid reason for redacting. Those who apply to set up free schools should be willing to make public who they are, what proposals they advance, and what reasons they give for the public to pay for their projects. Officials must make their decisions and the reasoning for them public so that we can know what free schools are and what purposes they are intended to serve. They should have provided Ms McInerney with the documents and not wasted expensive time and public money to avoid doing so.
Gavin Williams
Oxford

• Your article about the investigation into schools in Birmingham (‘Trojan Horse’ schools condemned, 18 July) illustrates the risk to accountability associated with Michael Gove‘s academy programme, accountability being to the secretary of state – which “can almost amount to benign neglect”. Another of Gove’s reforms extends the same risk to all schools. From September all maintained schools in England will be required to reconstitute their governing bodies in a way that gives a small core of governors the opportunity to appoint directly a majority of governors. This creates a self-perpetuating and potentially unrepresentative system of overseeing the running of schools, leaving all schools at risk. The opportunity for local councils to appoint governors is severely restricted. There are significantly reduced requirements for parent governors and staff governors, and the governors can decide who else to appoint and how many, without reference to anyone else.

This is fundamentally undemocratic and an inappropriate way to provide oversight of the spending of the huge amount of public money provided to schools. Further scandals are certain in the future as a result of this reform, by which time Michael Gove will have probably disappeared from the public eye, but I hope people remember who was responsible for this ill-thought-out policy and that with luck it will have been repealed before too much goes wrong.
Peter Kayes
School governor, Reading

With reference to your editorial (Public services: shipshape no more, 21 July), in late 2001 I was a civil servant in London and was tasked with running an expensive and very urgent project for the Home Office. Over the Christmas break I wrote the operational requirement and, with the technical expert, the specification. From immediately after the new year I chaired meetings to drive the project forward, regularly saying that I would take responsibility for this and that when doubts were expressed,  and by May 2002 the multimillion-pound project was complete and successful.

About three years later, walking around Whitehall, I was hailed by a Defra PhD who had been on the project team who told me that he had never enjoyed his time in the civil service as much as over that period. Long before, I had remarked to my boss that I was amazed that being a civil servant could be such fun. “Ah,” he replied, “but you are being a naval officer.” He was right.
Richard Davey
Commander, Royal Navy (retired), Middle Lambrook, Somerset

Three cheers for Rosie Boycott and her “flagship project” to improve the nation’s diet (Food is a drug, and we have to learn to say no, 18 July). Most important, from my point of view, is tackling the problem in schools.

As a teacher-trainer in the 1980s and 90s, visiting students on teaching practice, I travelled round East and West Sussex in despair as I watched school lunches being replaced by banger and burger bars. “Why?” I asked one headteacher when I had the chance. “The children prefer them,” came the disingenuous reply. My attempt to discuss educational values was quickly curtailed. Like the Coca-Cola machines installed in the canteens, it was, and still is, about profit-making.

The legacy of Thatcher’s Britain. “Society”, which simply didn’t exist then, now faces the wider problems in the nation’s health that Rosie Boycott lists in her article. Tackling schools seems more than timely. We have a new minister for education who must support this too.
Dr Lisa Dart
Eastbourne, East Sussex

• Excellent article by Rosie Boycott about our food culture: “the environment in which we make food choices … is extremely unhealthy”.

You made your own contribution in your Cook section the following day by providing us with six recipes for “guilty pleasures” including “an unadulterated cheese and carb fest” and “very naughty chocolate chip-cookie ice-cream sandwich”.

With an eye to the future, the same section’s “10 best kids recipes” feature (“where healthy meets delicious”?) included seven that relied on cream, sugar, butter, chocolate and maple syrup. As Rosie said, “the odds are stacked against us”.
John Roberts
Dursley, Gloucestershire

Independent:

As bad as events in Gaza are, more worrying are events in Iraq, where Isis terrorists have started a campaign of ethnic cleansing (editorial, 21 July) in what’s left of the state of Iraq after British and US forces bombed the place into the dark ages, bringing “democracy” to the region in 2003.

Are politicians so stupid that they believe it is some imam in a British mosque that is radicalising Muslim youngsters to join the fight, rather than the politicians’ indifference to the children of Gaza.

I suppose some would describe me as a white member of the British middle class, yet even my children and I have been radicalised by recent events in Gaza, just as I would have been, had Britain started to bomb border towns in the Republic of Ireland in response to IRA atrocities, on the basis of intelligence reports that IRA operatives were living in these towns.

The apparently “civilised” world would not have accepted this form of collective punishment on mostly white Irish Catholics, yet in Gaza its seen as Israel defending itself.

Anyone with even a little knowledge should know by now that the first step to a prosperous peaceful world and Middle East is not just a ceasefire in Gaza; it is justice for the Palestinians. Benjamin Netanyahu should be careful of what he wishes for: he may end up with Isis if Palestinians become disillusioned with Hamas, their democratically elected representatives.

Richard Lanigan, Thames Ditton,  Surrey

 

Instead of giving us the familiar Israeli homilies  about terrorism and human shields in the Gaza conflict, the Israeli ambassador might have used the space you gave him (16 July) to elucidate for us the recent remarks of his Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a press conference on 11 July,  according to The Times of Israel, he said: “I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: There cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan” – that is, the West Bank.

This has been the consensus for many years of Israel’s governing elite. They will never allow a Palestinian state which denies it this control. They will allow bantustans, but only to prevent a Palestinian numerical majority in Israel.  Such a deal would be unacceptable to any Palestinian leader, from Hamas to Abbas. Israel, furthermore, has no intention of allowing a two-state solution, which Obama has called for.

Because of this unacknowledged but fundamental spoiler, “the Middle East peace process may well be the most spectacular deception in modern diplomatic history,” wrote Henry Siegman, formerly head of the American Jewish Congress. He quotes Moshe Dayan; “The question is not ‘What is the solution?’ but ‘How do we live without a solution?’ ”

In this context Israel is asking for the impossible – for Palestine’s acquiescence in its dismemberment.

James Fox, London W10

 

Jacob Amir (Letters, 12 July) is correct in asserting that the Zionist leadership accepted the UN Partition Plan of 1947, which provided for both a Jewish and an Arab state in Palestine. He omits to say, however, that they did so only formally, that is, quite cynically, as a platform for creating the more homogenous Jewish state they desired.

Those at the UN who drafted the Partition Plan knew that it was only a paper solution. A Jewish state in any meaningful sense of the term could not be established in an area where Jews were barely 50 per cent of the population. In other words, ethnic cleansing was necessary.

Dr Steve Cox, York

 

As someone who 50 years ago worked as a volunteer in an Israeli kibbutz, it pains me to condemn Israel now for its grotesquely disproportionate response to the Hamas rocket attacks. Why, though, are western governments not as outraged by the current abuses in Gaza as the Secretary General of the United Nations?

We know that US politicians’ careers would be at risk from the Zionist lobby were they to advocate sanctions against Israel, and no doubt in the UK it is also felt that criticism of Israel might be associated with antisemitism, with disastrous political fall-out.

Surely there must come a point, however, when purely domestic political considerations are outweighed by the need to speak truth to power, and sanction a country, even an erstwhile ally, whose policies are so inimical to those we claim to espouse?

Christopher Martin, Bristol

 

Every day we hear about the troubles in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Israel and Palestine. What I never hear anything about is the achievements of Tony Blair in his role as Middle East envoy

Sarah Pegg, Seaford, East Sussex

 

Great video, but what about the singing?

Intrigued by Paul Lester’s article “Move over, Rihanna: we’re about the music” (19 July) I checked out random examples of the first three artists mentioned.

One FKA twigs video had typical standard industry choreography of attractive dancers and immensely over-processed, auto-tuned singing.

If most recordings of this alleged “new generation of female R&B singers” are stripped bare of the barrage of artificial additives –  sound effects, echo, digital processing – there is very little substance left to remember.

To pass any test of time, as singers such as Big Mama Thornton, Janis Joplin, Ruth Brown, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston or Amy Winehouse have demonstrated, a great voice is the essential ingredient. Everything else is secondary.

Without an instantly recognisable superior vocal quality, all the industry can do is package an act’s products with gimmicks ranging from sex goddess to modest innocence icon, in the hope of capturing a temporary following in a chosen target audience.

Rol Grimm, London NW6

 

Patients who slip through the NHS net

Stan Brock’s mission to provide healthcare to some of the estimated 44 million Americans living without it is admirable, but let’s not forget that in the UK there’s also a large number of people going without even basic medical care (report, 14 July).

Ninety per cent of patients at the clinic we run for excluded people in east London have not had access to a doctor despite living here for many years. Extremely vulnerable people, such as undocumented migrants and trafficked and destitute people, are routinely denied healthcare in the UK or are simply too afraid to access it, including heavily pregnant women.

And with the Government tightening up its healthcare checks and charges we expect to see many, many more desperate people come through our doors.

Nick Harvey, Doctors of the World UK, London E14

 

Assisted dying and ‘doctors who kill’

George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, while saying he has changed his mind on assisted dying, does not mention the Hippocratic Oath, let alone its relevance to changes in the law.

Once the names of doctors who have issued patients with lethal drugs reach the public domain (advertised? leaked? rumoured?) confidence will erode, patients with multiple disabilities like me will run for cover under palliative care, “doctors who kill” will terminate their careers, and the NHS will wither.

The Rev Richard James, Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Orthodox liturgy  at Canterbury

Your notice of the death of Metropolitan Volodymyr (7 July) failed to mention that in the early 1980s he was a member of the International Dialogue with the Anglicans. In 1982 he celebrated the Orthodox Divine Liturgy at the high altar in Canterbury Cathedral.

The Head Verger took the precaution of placing a large Bible on St Augustine’s Chair to ensure that no one but the Archbishop of Canterbury might sit there.

Archimandrite Ephrem Lash, London N7

 

Don’t forget to set the bar higher

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector of Schools, is quoted as asking local authorities: “Are you stepping up to the plate or have you thrown in the towel?”

Would he like schools to teach such mixed-metaphor madness to pupils? Can’t they just concentrate on leaving no stone unturned and punching above their weight?

Gyles Cooper, London N10

 

Reborn as a  better person?

If Kartar Uppal is right that humans are being continually reborn (letter, 19 July), wouldn’t you think there would be an improvement in human behaviour over the millennia, as more of us progress along the road to nirvana?

Carol Wilcox, Christchurch, Dorset

Times:

PA Archive

Last updated at 12:01AM, July 22 2014

Was Britain’s hasty withdrawal from its colonies a cause of conflicts today?

Sir, The rise of Al-Shabaab in Somalia after the UK and US-backed ousting of the Islamic Courts Union shows that Ed Husain is wrong to assume that supporting US military actions in foreign countries is the best way to guarantee our security (Opinion, July 19).

Haste and laziness cannot be blamed for the mess left behind by imperialists who had 300 years to “civilise” foreign societies. The building of nations and the establishment of a propitious environment for peace, justice and rule of law can only be carried out by indigenous people themselves, not imposed by outsiders.

Sylvie Aboa-Bradwell

Policy Centre for African Peoples

Sir, I congratulate Ed Husain on his review of trouble spots and Britain’s cowardice in facing up to its role in helping to solve political and socio-economic problems in Nigeria, Iraq, Pakistan and Palestine. He states that we disbanded our empire hurriedly, leaving badly drawn boundaries, without adequate planning or vision for potential future conflicts. However, in praising US world leadership in current conflicts, he fails to mention that it was the US which insisted on Britain disbanding its empire as quickly as possible. At that time empire was anathema to a
modern republic born out of revolution — notwithstanding that US economic globalisation policy amounts to much the same dependence by many countries on a superpower.

At the end of the Second World War the UK’s economy was in ruins, and we were badly in need of US support. It was made clear to us that the condition for this was immediate disbandment of the British Empire. Our survival and recovery at that time depended on doing as we were told.

Dr Patrick Magee

Bath

Sir, Ed Husain takes a blinkered view of Britain’s role in the world seeing it ineffective but for its links with the US. America is a good friend but we cannot rely on future administrations sharing our thinking and giving support when it is needed.

Britain’s future in foreign affairs lies in greater cooperation with France and Germany and eventually in persuading all 28 nations of the EU that one collective foreign policy is needed.

A Europe which knows its collective mind will be more effective and a better friend to the US than a subservient one.

Lawrence Fullick

Bournemouth, Dorset

Sir, The violence in Nigeria is caused by Boko Haram and its desire to browbeat, by means of threats, torture and death, all non-Muslims (and liberally minded Muslims) into its intolerant, puritanical version of Islam, not by the creation of an independent Nigeria by the British over half a century ago.

As for Ed Husain’s suggestion that if the UK abandons “its place at the table [of active involvement in international politics] we will be in American eyes an Italy or a Spain or an Austria, a has-been.”

What’s wrong with that? Seems eminently enviable to me. Ed Husain states that if we move away from the US we will “diminish to a third-rate power almost overnight”. I thought we were there already; and, if our standing is so dependent on the US, it’s better not to stand at all.

Father Julian G Shurgold

Sutton, Surrey

The shooting down on the Malaysian airliner may have been a mistake but why were such weapons in militia hands?

Sir, I sense that the Western media might be jumping to conclusions and allowing these to distort its coverage of the downing of MH17.

I am sure that nobody intended to shoot down a large civilian airliner full of innocent people from countries nowhere near the “war” zone. It is clear that the incident was a tragic accident or mistake — and we must not forget that the US made a similar mistake in the past.

However, I do wonder how the ignorant militias fighting in eastern Ukraine seem to have at their disposal the sophisticated weaponry capable of bringing down a flight such as MH17. That is the issue, and we should resolve this before insulting President Putin so roundly. Of course Putin does have form, but he must not be regarded as guilty until he is proven to be so. Accordingly, independent, international experts must be allowed immediate access to the crash site to gather substantive evidence and so begin to establish the real facts.

Captain Tim Hosker, RN (ret’d)

Rugby, Warks

Sir, The downing of the Malaysian civilian airliner in eastern Ukraine is an atrocity. President Obama needs international support to enforce a lasting ceasefire and a permanent political solution to the political crisis in Ukraine. A civil war that runs so far out of control as to kill 300 individuals from neutral countries is a war atrocity beyond the moral compass of the entire watching world. Lawyers for bereaved families should be moving at the fastest pace to seek both legal and financial redress with the expectation of receiving several million pounds per individual killed. To achieve less than all this would be to allow one of the worst examples of collateral war damage to pass without appropriate redress.

Elizabeth Oakley

Dursley, Glos

Such schemes may not be ideal but the alternative is traffic-choked city centres

Sir, Professor Parkhurst’s research into the “green credentials” of park-and-ride sites misses the point (“Park-and-ride is not so green as shoppers drive the extra miles”, July 19).

Cambridge, like many cities that have successfully introduced park-and-ride, does not have the space in the town centre for the 5,000 parking spaces provided at the five park-and-ride sites at its edge. Without park-and-ride the city would have been strangled economically, with shops and businesses forced to go elsewhere — potentially into what is green belt land outside the city.

By concentrating shopping in one centre we reduced the prospect of people travelling far further to out of town shopping centres, where there is often no reasonable public transport with a resultant negative impact on the environment.

The Guided Busway, which Professor Parkhurst praises and which I pioneered, takes the concept of park-and-ride a stage farther, by intercepting passengers at an earlier point in their journey to Cambridge, taking yet more cars off the road.

Shona Johnstone

Cabinet member for Environment and Transport, Cambridgeshire county council (1998-2005)

Building executive mansions is no help to young people who can afford only flats and studio apartments

Sir, Tim Montgomerie (Thunderer, July 21) calls for the building of 250,000 houses a year but neglects to address the type of housing which should be built. In rural west Oxforshire we are threatened with some 20,000 new houses. However, most housing being built in this area boasts “4/5 bedroom, 3x bathroom detached luxury houses coming soon”.

How will this help young people get onto the housing ladder? Where are the blocks of studio apartments, one and two-bedroom flats, semi-detached houses? Why are shop owners not encouraged to let the space above their premises; why not insist that empty houses are inhabited, not held as investments?

Many things could and should be done before a vast building fest which benefits only the developers.

Sarah Coe

Faringdon, Oxon

If groundstaff brush the pitch too often they will reduce the spinners’ chances of getting some action

Sir, At the England v India Test match the ground staff have been brushing the pitch during the drinks and other breaks in play, rather than only between innings. Has the law been changed?

Wear and tear of the surface, as the match proceeds, gives the bowler assistance, of which they get so little now that pitches are covered and protected from the weather. Spin bowlers, of whom there are so few, relish a bit of dust.

Brian O’Gorman

Chichester , W Sussex

Telegraph:

Iraq’s national museum, among many institutions looted or set ablaze in the weeks after Saddam fell Photo: AP

6:58AM BST 21 Jul 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – In 1954, the international community agreed the Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, following the devastating impact of the Second World War on some of Europe’s most valued heritage, including paintings by Van Gogh and Caravaggio; the St Petersburg amber room; and architecture such as St Mary’s Church, Lübeck, and the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino.

After the looting in 2003 of museums and archaeological sites in Iraq, Britain announced its intention to ratify the convention. A decade later, we have yet to honour this commitment.

Britain is the most significant worldwide military power not to have ratified the convention, the United States having done so in 2009.

In 2008 a draft Cultural Property Protection (Armed Conflict) Bill passed through parliamentary scrutiny with only minor revisions suggested. Ministers of successive governments have pledged their commitment to ratification as soon as parliamentary time can be found.

This commitment is to be applauded, but continuing failure to ratify is mystifying. It has all-party support. Protecting cultural property in conflict is seen by the Armed Forces as a “force multiplier” – something that makes their job easier.

The latest Queen’s Speech left ample parliamentary time free to pass additional legislation in the current session. So the Government should delay no further in introducing the necessary legislation to ratify this important treaty.

Earl of Clancarty
London SW1

Professor Peter Stone
Secretary General of the Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield; Head of the School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University

Sir Laurie Magnus
Chairman English Heritage

Sir Simon Jenkins
Chairman National Trust

Lucy Worsley
Chief curator Historic Royal Palaces

Michael Palin

David Anderson
President, Museums Association; Director General, National Museums Wales

Dan Snow
President, Council for British Archaeology

Amanda Foreman

Dame Rosemary Cramp
Professor Emeritus, Durham University

Sir Adam Roberts
Senior Research Fellow in International Relations, Oxford University

Dame Fiona Reynolds
Master, Emmanuel College, Cambridge

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn
Chairman, all-party parliamentary archaeology group

Lady Antonia Fraser

Sir Barry Cunliffe

And another thing: the usual tavern types as depicted by Ferdinand van Kessel (1648-96)  Photo: bridgeman.com

6:59AM BST 21 Jul 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – Some people have been saying whom they don’t want in pubs – noisy children, for example, or karaoke singers – without listing the typical customers they do want in a “real” pub.

There should be one grumpy old man in the corner moaning about modern beer and saying he wouldn’t drink such fizz, until someone offers to buy him a pint.

There’s the guy in the blazer reminiscing about the “kites” they flew in the big one, even though he’s only 46, and two old dears in the snug with a milk stout, telling each other how naughty they were as girls, both secretly in love with the man in the blazer.

Add a Scotsman, a denizen of the village for 20 years but still regarded as an outsider, even when he swears under his breath at any non-regular, or the bore who reminds everyone at every opportunity that he “knows what’s what” because he used to be… (fill in the blank, as applicable). Then there is the pedant who invariably points out the landlord’s spelling mistakes on the chalked menu board.

Ah, how we miss those people.

Martin Billingham
London SE6

The crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Grabovo in Ukraine Photo: AP

7:00AM BST 21 Jul 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – With the grotesque tragedy of MH17 comes confirmation that the world is both dangerous and unpredictable. On Saturday, of all days, the Russian government announced that it was increasing its military spending from 17.5 per cent to 21 per cent of its budget by 2017.

George Osborne, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, has been responsible for imposing drastic reductions to the size and effectiveness of our Armed Forces. The prime responsibility of the Prime Minister and the Government is the defence of the realm.

In view of the very dangerous situation in which we find ourselves, these cuts now look profoundly inappropriate.

John Nickell-Lean
Malton, North Yorkshire

SIR – The Prime Minister calls for EU harmony in respect of tightened sanctions on Russia, in view of a certain lack of effective cooperation since the destruction of flight MH17. Will the supply of French-built helicopter carriers to the Russian navy be included or excluded?

Anthony R Baines
Broom, Bedfordshire

SIR – Peter Foster poses today’s most pressing question of how to respond to the new world disorder. The Middle East is dissolving into a region-wide Sunni-Shia civil war, China daily jousts at sea with its neighbours, Afghanistan’s future is uncertain, Iraq fragments, Islamist insurgencies multiply in Africa, Libya slides to failed statehood and a Hindu nationalist PM is elected in nuclear-armed India.

Dan Hodges argues that soft power without hard power is a euphemism for no power. And, in the Business section, Jeremy Warner points out the dependency of our world-class aerospace industry on British military spending.

May I suggest what seems to be the logical deduction from all three of these analyses? Britain should be restoring its Armed Forces, not cutting them.

Vice Admiral John McAnally
National President
The Royal Naval Association
Old Portsmouth, Hampshire

SIR – Ideas and ideology drive modern conflict, not nation states or power blocs. So when Dan Hodgesdismisses soft power, he forgets that aggressive ideas and isolationist ideologies are the weapons of Britain’s main modern adversaries.

The patient work of attracting young minds around the world to our open culture and to Britain’s education and opportunities – as exemplified by the BBC World Service and the British Council – is a wise investment in our long-term national security.

Military force will always be a necessary evil. And we should be proud that Britain’s own young minds have been prepared to fight on many fronts for what Britain stands for over the past two decades. But there is no point winning the ground war if we give up the battle of ideas.

Sir Vernon Ellis
Chairman, British Council
Manchester

SIR – The Prime Minister reacts with horror to the downing of MH17. But the culprits care not a jot. For years, politicians have run down our Armed Forces, replacing them with ring-fenced overseas aid and “soft power” – another term for appeasement. The bully will always adopt Lenin’s maxim: “Probe with a bayonet. If you meet steel, stop. If you meet mush, push.”

Captain Michael David
Osmington, Dorset

SIR – Another search for a “black box” flight recorder. Isn’t it time this was replaced by something that streams data continuously back to a central station?

Michael Keene
Winchester, Hampshire

Irish Times:

A chara, – Aidan Doyle, in his rather downbeat article “Irish language is not a part of us – it must be learned” (July 19th), is quite wrong in implying that because the Irish language is not derived from our DNA that it somehow lacks authenticity in our lives. Everything that gives us distinctiveness as a community – our sense of ourselves in the world, our understanding of history, our literature, art, music dance, games and, of course, our languages – is learned. Some of this is learned informally from our family, some is learned at school and some by osmosis through our daily involvements in social life.

What Dr Doyle’s article doesn’t acknowledge is that much progress has been made in making these learning processes more effective since the early faltering steps to establish Irish educationally in the early 1900s. Thanks to the gaelscoil movement, for example, we have now a growing number of our young citizens who are used to communicating with each other in Irish and who frequently do. Much has been achieved; there is, of course still more to do.

Finally, Dr Doyle’s sniffily pedantic dismissal of the slogan “Níos deirge, níos feirge” misses the point. It is clearly ungrammatical, but no Irish speaker will fail to understand the point it is making and its cheeky incorrectness will probably make it more memorable. – Bua is beannacht,

RISTEARD

MAC GABHANN,

Bóthar Dhún an Chreagáin,

Doire

A chara, – Both Stephen Collins and Aidan Doyle have missed the point in their “analysis” on the Irish language (Opinion & Analysis, 19ú Iúil). “Preserving” the language is of little interest to those of us who live through Irish and “taking a long hard look at Article 8” (journalistic speak for watering it down it) will only widen the chasm between State policy and linguistic rights.

With the huge growth of Irish speakers (outside of Gaeltacht areas) and the introduction of the Official Languages Act since 2003 the Irish State has repeatedly stalled at the crossroads. Instead of moving backwards, let us go forward by embracing Irish speakers in our dealings with the State. Why not change our recruitment policies (when embargoes are lifted) and begin recruiting say one fluent Irish speaker out of every three at customer service grades “agus le beart de réir briathair tabharfar na cearta céanna don nGaeilgeoir is don mBéarlóir”. Rather than looking at Article 8, maybe the new Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs could take a long hard look at our recruitment policy. – Is mise,

ROIBEARD Ó hEARTAIN,

Baile an Fheirtéaraigh,

Trá Lí,

Co Ciarraí

A Chara, – Michael Collins told Piaras Béaslaí in 1918: “If we get safely through this business, I intend to give up everything else and retire to an Irish-speaking district, and stay there until I have a complete mastery of Irish. I don’t think it will take me long.”

Those who claim to be his greatest admirers show little inclination to emulate their hero. Enda Kenny has a poor record in Gaeltacht affairs. While in opposition, he appointed Michael Ring and Frank Feighan as Gaeltacht spokepersons, neither of whom spoke Irish. He expects the unfortunate Joe Mc Hugh to master Irish after a few weeks in the Naoinain Mhóra (High Babies) of Gleann Columcille. It is not acceptable.

An Taoiseach should request Dinny Mc Ginley to continue as Aire na Gaeltachta until such time as Joe Mc Hugh convinces a nominated group of native speakers of Irish that he is able to converse normally with them and run his department with ease and competence through the medium of Irish. He can then have pride in his portfolio, and urge us as much as he likes to join him in his personal journey. – Beir beannacht,

PEADAR

MAC MAGHNAIS,

Bothar Bhinn Eadair,

Baile Atha Cliath 5

Sir, – No one is seriously suggesting that the Minister of Health should be a doctor, the Minister for Agriculture a vet and so forth (Brendan O’Donnell, July 19th). Advanced oral and literacy skills, however, are without question a necessary minimum requirement for all government Ministers.

The Minister charged with Gaeltacht Affairs is in charge of a bilingual portfolio and should therefore be highly competent in both Irish and English. Fluency in conversational Irish will be of limited benefit to one charged with drafting, reading and reviewing complex language-policy documents. To expect any individual to acquaint himself with a new ministerial portfolio and to simultaneously acquire advanced reading, writing and oral language proficiency skills, is not only unrealistic but also grossly unfair on the individual concerned.

Those who have been most critical of this ministerial appointment on linguistic grounds are those most keenly aware of the mammoth linguistic task being asked of the new junior Minister. They are not, as Leo Roche suggests (July 19th), “a minority group” happily oblivious to the difficulties faced by language-learners. – Yours, etc,

DR RIÓNA NÍ FHRIGHIL,

Palmyra Park,

Galway City

Sir, – The furore about the appointment of a Minister for the Gaeltacht who is not fluent in Irish is entirely consistent with the inability of Oireachtas members to conduct all business in our first official language. It reflects the reality of the way business is conducted in both the Seanad and Dáil, with translators permanently on hand in case a cúpla focal are used (another great example of our hypocrisy) .

Fluency in spoken and written Irish is not a requirement for our Oireachtas, yet it is imposed by that very body for public service appointments. On the bright side , I expect that the Minister(s) will have an allowance to cover the cost of the courses and the course providers will get some business. I wonder how much money is paid by us to fund Irish language courses for those in all public, State or semi-State jobs? – Yours, etc,

T MURPHY,

Ballincollig,

Co Cork

Sir, – Perhaps part of the reason that John Redmond does not occupy the same public space as figures like O’Connell and Parnell (“Redmond’s role in story of State should be recognised”, July 21st) is because people have a sense that he actually had a chance to listen to and try to address the genuine concerns unionists had about home rule – how it would affect their businesses, their access to UK markets and their religious freedoms.

It can be argued that his failure to take that chance sowed the seeds for partition and a century of sectarian violence, the consequences of which we still face today, when we tiptoe around certain Sinn Féin figures afraid to call them out on their past in case they revert to that past – which they deny having.

With hindsight, we can now see that all of the Unionist fears for what Home Rule would mean in reality, and worse, were proven to be correct. When we did finally achieve independence, we promptly handed control of the new state’s decision-making processes to the Catholic Church and replaced what was meant to be a democracy with a particularly vicious form of Catholic theocracy.

If Redmond had made more effort, then perhaps the island could have had the best of both traditions in one state instead of the worst of both traditions in two states. Of course it is ironic that the use of the term Redmondite, usually levelled at Fine Gael in particular, but also at anyone who doesn’t worship at the altar of 1916, is meant as a more refined insult than the more blunt “West Brit”, when in fact Redmond proved himself to have been even more weak-kneed towards the Catholic Church than even John A Costello, the personification of a Free Stater. – Yours, etc,

DESMOND FitzGERALD,

Canary Wharf,

London

Sir, – There is much truth in Ronan O’Brien’s article on John Redmond. The Irish Parliamentary Party occupies an unfortunate position historically, having been so comprehensively defeated in the 1918 election. It is worth bearing in mind, however, one of the reasons for that comprehensive defeat. The party had been a vocal supporter of a deeply unpopular and highly bloody European conflict, a conflict that had just killed more Irish people than all of the political strife this island was to endure in the 20th century would kill. And at the end of it all it seemed like there was not much to show for it.

The Ulster Unionists had just made a similar sacrifice, for opposite reasons. So by all means let the work of Redmond and the IPP be recognised and indeed honoured in this State. But it should be remembered that the war effort was a logical outcome of the home rule policy. Redmond’s great act of conciliation cost many Irish lives. The IPP’s strong support for recruitment was to influence many who joined up after August 1914. The cost of Redmond’s policy is something his professed admirers do not seem to want to acknowledge. – Yours, etc,

PATRICK HICKEY,

Millmount Grove,

Dublin 14

Sir, – Breda O’Brien expresses concern that internet sites like Tumblr and Spiked, where young people may express any ideas they wish but where a few opinion leaders set the tone, “may be socialising young people into near-absolute conformity when they have not yet developed sufficient maturity to realise what is happening” (Opinion & Analysis, July 19th).

Has not Ms O’Brien just described what religion has been doing in this country for centuries? The Catholic Church has been trying to socialise young people into near-absolute conformity with religious doctrines, particularly on sexual matters, when they have not yet developed sufficient maturity to realise what is happening.

This effort at programming begins in primary schools and has always been led by “a few opinion leaders” – clergy, nuns, bishops and popes, who “set the tone” by endeavouring to instil in students an “informed conscience”, that is a conscience which is not their own.

Ms O’Brien fears that internet free speech is leading many younger people into attemptingto close down all kinds of “respectful debate”.

But what is “respectful debate”? Much of what the Catholic Church teaches is not “respectful” of women, or of gay people. The debate this organisation engages in poses as being respectful, but it is essentially abusive. One cannot engage in respectful debate when respect for the full equality of the other is lacking. An abuser is not in a position to demand respect.

At least these internet sites which Ms O’Brien fears do not set themselves up as morally infallible, nor do they impose silence on those who disagree with them.

And therefore young people have a better chance of personal growth and of developing a conscience which has not been interfered with by an all-knowing hierarchy. Yours, etc,

DECLAN KELLY,

Whitechurch Road,

Rathfarnham,

A chara, – Miriam Lord (July 18th) and Stephen Collins (July 19th) miss the point about the Dáil standing in solidarity with citizens in the Middle East and Gaza. Or, I suspect, they ignore the point.

They focus on Sinn Féin’s and my role in this in a disparaging way. Ms Lord zeroes in on Mary Lou McDonald, while Mr Collins accuses Sinn Féin of “bullying” other TDs.

I like to believe that the TDs who stood are glad that they did. Is it not a positive that the Dáil stood united, even for a minute, for once, for something that represents the feeling of a huge number of Irish people – that is peace in the Middle East? Our Government should be doing more about this. Maybe your correspondents could focus on that.

The citizens of Gaza may hear of the Irish parliament extending solidarity to them. That also would be a good thing. Of course that news was not broadcast on RTÉ television. I wonder why not. Perhaps the tenor of Ms Lord’s and Mr Collins’s commentary contains the answer to that. – Le meas,

GERRY ADAMS TD,

Leinster House,

Dublin 2

Sir, – At last an Irish Times journalist has used the word “ruthless” when writing on the issue of Gaza (Inside Politics, July 19th). It is all the more disappointing then that Stephen Collins was referring to Sinn Féin’s call to the Dáil to stand with the people of Gaza, rather than the actions of the Israeli military. Could your esteemed political correspondent possibly be missing the bigger picture? – Yours, etc,

PAUL GAVAN,

Castleconnell,

Co Limerick

Sir, – Responsibility for the downed Malaysian airliner is quite clear. It lies with those who organised and supported the illegal coup in Ukraine. This group of course includes the United States and the European Union.

Before this coup, Ukraine was a peaceful country with a democratically elected government. There was no danger in its air corridors. The post-coup election was obviously not free and fair. How can one have a free and fair election in a country where there is a civil war?

The current government, supported by the West, has chosen the path of all-out war against its own people in the east of the country. In war zones, sadly such tragedies happen.

The foreign ministers of the EU might reflect on how they have taken the wrong option at every stage of this crisis. They might also ask themselves if it is in the interest of Europe to follow United States foreign policy so slavishly. – Yours, etc,

ALAN McPARTLAND,

Grange Court,

Rathfarnham,

Sir, – Having just returned from Bavaria, where they have got things right in that there is virtually no rural housing to be found outside villages and towns, Diarmuid Ó Grada’s article, “Problems of rural Ireland require immediate action” ( July 11th) reminded me of the depressing situation here.

Dr Ó Grada’s succinct summary of the win/win situation that would come from locating people in villages and towns requires little elaboration. But in addition to the ways forward outlined by him might I suggest that other steps that need to be taken could include the removal of the powers of councillors to rezone land, the implementation of the Kenny report to make land available on the outskirts of villages and towns and a reappraisal of the rural transport scheme, which has the unfortunate effect of perpetuating rural isolation?

I don’t believe any real effort has been made to engage with prospective homeowners to put to them the many advantages of village living. One-off rural housing “policy” is developer/farmer driven. Its all about selling sites at inflated prices. There has to be a better way. – Yours, etc,

ROGER GARLAND,

Butterfield Drive,

Dublin 14

Sir, – Una Mullally’s article (Opinion & Analysis, July 21st) on the Seanad’s “image problem” is typical of the dishonest discourse that was rife in the debate during the referendum on its abolition.

To state that the “weird limbo” in which the Seanad now exists can be dealt with by “the public having a proper hand in the election of its members”, as Una Mullally does, is to be out of touch with reality.

“Reforming” the Seanad, by having it directly elected and giving it more power, is just creating another Dáil. We already have one of those.

The Seanad is not just a “weird limbo”. It is an expensive, powerless, talking shop for the insider elite. It is not needed. – Yours, etc,

ANTHONY LEAVY,

Shielmartin Drive,

Sutton,

Sir, – It is a strange, nay, an absurd world. On July 17th, William Reville (“Smoking ban proposal by British body unwise”) informed us that 7,000 people die annually from smoking-related diseases in Ireland. He also pointed out that our health services will spend €23 billion over the next decade on tobacco-related diseases.

Now it is reported (“Tobacco giants may sue on plain packaging”, Business & Innovation, July 21st) that “Ireland could have to pay hundreds of millions in compensation to tobacco giants if plain packaging is introduced”. – Yours, etc,

JOHN BURNS,

Linden Place,

Grove Avenue,

Blackrock,

Sir, – Why does Lucy Kellaway (“Why are we more vocal about loo rolls than our jobs?”, July 21st) think that being treated “like factory workers” by management is a negative?

As a student I worked on the factory floor, where managers treated me with respect, dignity and concern for my welfare – which was far from my experience as a hospital doctor.– Yours, etc,

DR JOHN DOHERTY,

Cnoc an Stollaire,

Gaoth Dobhair,

Co Donegal

Irish Independent:

* After spending hours over a number of days in front of a computer, I finally got a pair of tickets for the final night of the Garth Brooks’s Croke Park concerts. We, the desperately seeking ticket people, were the ones who initially set in train the demand for a minimum of five concerts.

I and thousands of people like me have given a lifetime of service to the GAA and other organisations that rely heavily on voluntary endeavour.

Without us there would be no Croke Park or GAA. Some of us have been attending games and other events in Croke Park long before some residents lived there. Over the years, we have spent money inside and outside the stadium. We have patronised shops, hostelries, pubs, eating houses and street traders.

We have paid for our parking and brought great life and vibrancy to the area during the playing season. When it came to the Brooks concerts no one even considered consulting us. All we got was a type of glib remark such as: “I feel sorry for all the people who bought tickets.”

And then there were the condescending remarks from some in the media as though we were some type of country & western simpletons.

We have been either ignored or treated with contempt, if not disdain, and not allowed to play in our play area.

I don’t remember any vociferous complaints, or money being lodged in a person’s account to take out a High Court injunction, with respect to the intensification in the use of Croke Park when permission was given for its use to play rugby and soccer matches when the then Lansdowne Road stadium was being developed.

And as far as I know, Croke Park did not specifically have planning permission to host rugby and soccer games.

No condescending or patronising remarks with respect to rugby or soccer supporters from commentators.

Only reverse snobbery as though rugby supporters would have to endure a part of Dublin that would not be their normal play and socialising ground.

JOSEPH MACKEY

GLASSON, ATHLONE

CHURCH MUST END INEQUALITY

* The exclusion of women from serious ministry in the Catholic Church is mirrored in the way the Government shows shameless bias in favour of men in the selection of TDs for significant posts.

One can only hope that the Taoiseach will shy away from the cynical approach of David Cameron in promoting women in order to enhance his election prospects.

Women do not exist to fulfil the purposes of men. One of the central principles of our moral lives is that of respect for persons.

This implies we live in relationship with others whose purposes and perception we take into our view.

The role of women has sometimes been reduced to that of incubators for the offspring of men; whilst men lived free and easy lives, women were condemned to relentless domesticity.

When women are promoted within government, there is more comment in the media about what they wear than about what they think.

I was privileged to attend a service recently, presided over by a female bishop from America. She preached an outstanding sermon. Sadly, the main comment after the service was about the hat she was wearing. Some found the mitre rather odd sitting on a woman’s head, as if God designed the mitre with men in mind.

If we discriminate against the inclusion of women in the church other than in relation to roles where they are subservient to men, the least we can expect are relevant reasons for doing so. The silliest reasons given include: ‘Jesus was a man’; ‘Women are not leaders by nature’; ‘Jesus chose men to lead his ministry’.

The history of the church has not been a vast preparation for the way things are.

No account of the way things are can ground a judgment about how they ought to be. It is not our common humanity, but some taken-for-granted inherited ordinance, that grounds the inequitable treatment of women in the church.

PHILIP O’NEILL

OXFORD

REFLECTING ON THE ANGELUS

* It has been suggested that we do away with the Angelus on RTE on the grounds that ‘this is not a Catholic country’. There are at least four good reasons to disagree.

In the most recent Census over 80pc of respondents – given the choice of putting ‘no religion’ – instead put ‘Catholic’.

That figure takes into account both Ireland’s multicultural makeup and immigration over the past decade.

In any normal, healthy democracy, acknowledgement is given to the wishes of the majority. The Angelus lasts about one minute – or 0.00069pc of a 24-hour day.

An insistence that over 80pc of the population in a democracy ought not to be allowed even 0.00069pc of the nation’s daily broadcasting output – and which they support with their licence fee – ought to raise eyebrows in alarm at the motivation and logical capabilities of those making such demands.

The Angelus in its current form has been drained of almost all religious content to the point where it is more of a secular ‘pause for reflection’ than a call to prayer. That even this short, watered-down ‘pause for reflection’ still manages to offend the strident secularist ought to raise eyebrows in alarm at the kind of intolerant society such people wish to create.

Insofar as it still has any religious overtones, the Angelus serves a clear, meaningful function – a call to prayer: to reflect on our relationship with God and our ultimate purpose here.

A secular call to ‘pause for reflection’ on the contrary, would be an empty shell. A pause to ‘reflect’ on what? The worst outcome would be that RTE give in to a minority of ill-thought-out calls to banish something that a majority would like to keep; and which represents a more tolerant and pluralistic society, contrary to claims of so-called secularists.

NICK FOLLEY

CARRIGALINE, CO CORK

TIME TO FOCUS ON REFORM

* With the cabinet reshuffle done, the Government can reset itself by focusing on the radical reform of what it called “an outdated system of administration”.

An easy win would be to “publish who does what and to whom they are answerable” as recommended by the Independent Panel on the Strengthening Civil Service Accountability and Performance.

This would not need new legislation, as the 1997 Freedom of Information Act already provides a good basis for immediate action on this.

This act already makes it mandatory to publish certain information about public bodies.

Such information includes “the names and designations of the members of staff of that body responsible” for carrying out the arrangements needed to implement Freedom of Information.

These arrangements include the publication of information regarding rules and practices in relation to certain decisions by public bodies.

Furthermore, the 1997 act also specifies the publication of a “general description of its structure and organisation, functions, powers and duties, any services it provides for the public and the procedures it provides for the public”.

Last year, the Government proposed to drop these measures in the new Freedom of Information Bill.

It remains to be seen how serious the reshaped Government is about resetting its commitment to serious reform.

DONAL O’BROLCHAIN

DUBLIN 9

Irish Independent

Sorting

July 21, 2014

21July2014 Sorting

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. A very damp day

ScrabbleIwins, but gets under 400. perhaps Marywill win tomorrow.

Obituary:

Escapologist known as ‘the British Houdini’ whose flaming rope act left audiences aghast

The escapologist Alan Alan

Alan Alan giving a pre-escape interview in 1957

5:41PM BST 19 Jul 2014

CommentsComments

ALAN ALAN, who has died aged 87, was an escapologist famous for his “burning rope routine” and known as “the British Houdini”.

Alan devised his trademark burning-rope act in the early Fifties, when he was just starting out in the escapology game. It involved him being trussed up in a straitjacket, or cords, or chains, and dangled on a petrol-soaked rope upside-down from a crane — most famously high above the Thames. The rope would then be lit.

Audiences watched aghast as Alan wriggled and wormed his way out of his shackles before the rope gave way to the flames. A section of his rope was wrapped in thick wadding, the extra fibre adding valuable time for him to get free.

“Alan issues a challenge,” declared a Pathé reporter watching the act in London in 1950. “He undertakes to free himself in less time than it takes to tie him. Just to make it more interesting he does it 60ft in the air. Easy as falling off a log, he says, but give us the log to fall off any time.”

The act was a particularly perilous reinvention of a routine pioneered by Houdini, and nearly got Alan killed on several occasions. In 1950, for example, he came crashing down on to the stage of the Pavilion Theatre in Liverpool when the rope snapped. But as his fame spread across the world, he only heightened the dangers. Before long his hands were clasped in Darby cuffs and he was left hanging over cages of lions or rows of pointed swords.

Alan Rabinowitz was born on November 30 1926. In boyhood he was awestruck by the famous Danish showman, Dante the Magician, and in his teenage years he developed a magic and escape stage act. Alan was then taken on tour by the promoter Reggie Dennis (who gave him the stage name Alan Alan) and played alongside comedy and novelty acts including Morecambe and Wise and a young Des O’Connor.

Alan began his career as a serious escapologist much as he carried it through: by trying to upstage Houdini. In 1949, he staged “Houdini II Buried Alive”. Performed for Pathé News, Alan replicated a 1915 stunt in which Houdini had been buried alive in a grave, leaving precious little time to dig himself out. Houdini had lost consciousness as his hands broke the surface. Alan did not even get that far; his assistants had compacted the earth too tightly and he had to be dug out only moments from death. The rolling cameras and resulting column inches, however, helped to make his name.

Throughout his career Alan refined, adapted and repeated his flaming rope act, playing arenas, theatres and circuses. He also staged open-air crowd-pleasers for the passing public: in 1978 he swung and squirmed 100ft above the Thames as amazed drivers passed over Tower Bridge.

In 1959, Alan entertained prisoners at London’s Wormwood Scrubs prison — demonstrating how to get out of a set of handcuffs, slip a knot and wriggle free from chains. “It all depends on applying the knowledge at the right time,” he said. “When I do my work I have the right kind of incentive — cash. I can stay cool. A prisoner would be too emotional when it came to the point.”

In the late Fifties he managed Tommy Cooper’s magic shop in London, where the comedian’s wife Gwen was the driving force. “Gwen, big woman, prone to picture hats,” recalled Alan. “How she managed to keep Tommy under control – after a few drinks he must have been a hell of a handful.”

In later life, Alan became the proprietor, with Joe Elman, of his own shop — the Magic Spot in Southampton Row. A treasure trove of tricks and props, its walls were stacked with row upon row of wooden drawers, each one carrying its own curious contents: stink bombs, jet-flying cigarettes, palming coins, linking rings, flashing bow ties, glowing fangs, rocket balloons and sneezing powder. It was a dusty palace of peculiarities in which Alan, dapperly decked out in a three-piece suit, enjoyed entertaining his customers.

One visitor, in 1984, was Michael Palin. “I stopped at Alan Alan’s Magic Shop in Southampton Row, where I was served by a small, neat, besuited gentleman with an arrow through his head,” wrote Palin . “Quickly and efficiently he demonstrated an extraordinary variety of bangs, squirts, farts and electric shocks as if he were selling nothing more exciting than a coal scuttle. Little children watched in awe as their fathers idly toyed with a pack of sexy playing cards only to receive a sharp electric shock from the pack.”

Alan also mentored a number of aspiring magicians, including a young Michael Vincent, who would later become a Magic Circle Magician of the Year. “There really hasn’t been an escapologist who had a flair for the dramatics like Houdini other than Alan. In some cases I think Alan had the edge,” stated Vincent.

In addition to his great escapes, Alan also invented a number of clever close-up tricks, including the “Decimated Coin” — in which a coin appears to shatter into pieces — and the “Sharpshooter” card effect, in which a gunshot appears to hit a chosen card from a pack. In the late 1970s he returned to the rope, guest-starring on The David Copperfield Show. Copperfield described him as “someone I’ve idolised since I was a boy”.

By this stage Alan was a small, wiry man with a frenetic “cheeky chappy” stage persona that reminded many of the actor Norman Wisdom. While the burly American security guards on Copperfield’s stage towered over him, winding chains around his frame, Alan joked, hopped and spun around them.

In 1983 he played Houdini in the television film Parade of Stars, a re-creation of the vaudeville circuit of the early 20th century.

Magic’s modern visage — with its slick television personalities and camera tricks — sometimes baffled him. When David Blaine staged his own Tower Bridge stunt in 2003 — hanging 30ft in the air in a Plexiglas box for 44 days without food or water, Alan was sceptical. “I give him 10 days,” said Alan. “The box will mysteriously fall into the river and it will appear that Blaine has been swept away with the tide. He will turn up triumphantly half an hour later in Hyde Park.” In a rather more prosaic climax, a weakened and thin Blaine simply emerged from his stretch and was driven off to hospital.

The Magic Spot closed in 1996. In 2006 Alan was awarded the Maskelyn Award by the Magic Circle for services to British magic.

Alan Alan never married. He is survived by a brother.

Alan Alan, born November 30 1926, died July 4 2014

Guardian:

The Guardian has a long tradition of defending the rights of individual citizens within a free society, especially, in the last year, the right of privacy in an environment of unauthorised surveillance. I was appalled, therefore, by the editorial in response to Lord Falconer’s bill on assisted dying (18 July). First, the law against killing someone is not absolute; killing is frequently a duty for those in the forces and sometimes for the police. More important, in pontificating on the “moral landscape”, it asserts that “better end-of -life care can help”. Not always. For those with pancreatic cancer, for example, the terminal stages can reach beyond the effectiveness of even the finest palliative care and impose suffering which would be illegal in a laboratory rat, and would lead to disciplinary action if permitted by a vet.

The wishes of the electorate have long been clear: 70%-80% have shown in a succession of polls that they wish for the law to change with appropriate safeguards. Most tellingly, last year’s YouGov poll (Report, 1 May 2013) showed that even among religious believers (including Anglicans, Catholics, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Methodists and Pentecostals), a majority favoured such a change. It is not simply life which needs to be cherished, even when its quality has vanished, but the twice blessed quality of mercy.
Professor AR Michell
Upper Cleveley, Oxfordshire

• How is it that none of the people who have lately objected so eloquently in your columns to assisted dying seems interested in knowing what happens in the – now quite numerous – places where it has already been introduced? In Switzerland or Oregon, for instance, does this change actually have the fearful consequences for personal relations they predict? If it does, what methods have been found best for limiting those consequences?

This issue really is not a straightforward yes-or-no question, not a matter of creating “a new moral landscape”. It calls for a sensitive response to a real clash of values. The moral landscape actually changes all the time in any case simply because of changes in the world – such as shifts in modern medicine – and because we come to think differently about conflicts of ideals.

It is quite true that we have lately come to value freedom of choice very highly, often too highly in relation to other values. But there are surely situations where that freedom does rightly take precedence, cases where there is something odious about being controlled by other people – something that would not be tolerated in other aspects of modern life. These cases are few and, I think, easily recognised. I have seen reports that, once assisted dying is allowed, demand for it goes down rather then up. It was the freedom that mattered. Terry Pratchett has said that, if he knew he could go when he wanted to, he might be willing to put up with things a great deal longer. Is this actually an unreasonable demand?
Mary Midgley
Newcastle upon Tyne

• The law against killing someone is not absolute. We kill in wars, we’ve killed witches and slaves; humans have forever found a reason to end the lives of others. And where are the statistics to support the view that most of us do not live or die alone? Where is it written that the value of life is something that cannot “be assessed independently of family and friends, or of wider society”? Of course it can.

The importance of the right to choose to die, within the stringent rules proposed by this bill, deserves a rational response, not a leader laced with false and illogical arguments. Also, if the law changes, no one who is terminally ill will be forced to die: all it will offer is the right to choose so to do. Thus, persons such as this leader writer will never be affected by this possible change in the law, at all.
Carmen Callil
London

•  The Guardian has come out against assisted dying using the argument, among others, that so few people benefit in Oregon (a steady rate of 0.2% of deaths) that it is not worth “the moral change”. At the same time other opponents argue that this will lead to an ever increasing number of assisted deaths. Both arguments can’t be correct. In fact, neither is. The rate may be a steady 0.2% in Oregon, where the same law has been in place for 17 years, but many more than 0.2% benefit. One in 50 people there talk to their doctors about the possibility, but only 1 in 500 take advantage of it. That means thousands of patients and their families are comforted by the existence of an option that only a very few actually need. There is no evidence after 17 years that palliative care has suffered, nor that vulnerable people are at risk, and the Oregon Hospice Association withdrew its legal challenge to the legislation.

We have 17 years of experience in Oregon to inform this debate. Those facing bad deaths, and despite reassurances some still do, deserve legislation based on facts not supposition.
Dr Jacky Davis
London

• Giles Fraser doesn’t like people making choices. Two weeks ago (Loose canon, 5 July), his argument against assisted dying was that capitalism hinges on choice, so choice is obviously a bad thing, so people must not be allowed to choose assisted dying. His latest argument (Loose canon, 19 July) is that many valuable things in life – “perhaps the most important” – such as being loved, are not things that we can control by choice, so we shouldn’t try “to limit our exposure to that which is beyond our control”, so we should not choose to avoid, by an assisted death, whatever onslaughts the process of dying may throw at us.

One would have thought that the rational response to the fact that many good things are not directly things we can choose to enjoy was to cultivate patience and fortitude in regard to the things where no choice of ours could ever alter the situation, while not disdaining choice where it can save us from suffering that serves no good purpose whatever.

He should remember, too, that to be denied a choice in matters where choice could affect the outcome is usually to be subject to – perhaps to be the victim of – someone else’s choice. If it continues to be the case that some people die in unassuageable pain and distress because they are not allowed to choose assisted dying, Giles Fraser can reflect that this may be in part because he chose to oppose assisted dying. His choice is more equal than other people’s.
Paul Brownsey
Lecturer in philosophy (retired), Glasgow University

• What wise and meaningful words from Giles Fraser on Saturday on the subject of assisted dying. Without a hint of tendentious hectoring, he highlights the terrifying inadequacies of the desire for autonomy, for control over our own destinies – the fact that it does away with our need for love.
Joe Unsworth
Newcastle upon Tyne

• Giles Fraser explains that part of the religious resistance to assisted dying is based on romantic love of the greater being that comes to affirm your worth when you feel unworthy of such love. Much like the unconditional love of a mother for a newborn. When I gave birth under “induced” circumstances I was terrified and took out a stopwatch when the team snipped my waters. “Why?” the registrar asked. “Because I want to see how well psychological time matches real time under stress,” I said. The real reason was that I needed to feel some control of the process – as part of the team not the autonomous leader. The team took this in good part and it worked, we were all the happier for it.

Having the means to end my dying in extreme pain and discomfort does not put me in control (if that were the case I would choose to return to full, healthy life) but allows me to be part of the process of my own death. To refuse this is to reduce the sufferer to the status of a victim under torture, with loved ones helpless bystanders.
Pat McKenna
Cardiff

• I fail to be convinced by John Inge’s argument (A precious end to life, 18 July) and am slightly uneasy as to how he presents it. As with all the opponents of the bill on assisted dying, he is concerned “for the weakest and most vulnerable in our society”. John Inge’s wife was in terrible pain and could have easily been made to feel a burden to him and others and chosen to end her life. It could equally be argued, however, that the “weakest and most vulnerable” could be coerced into living for the sake of others when they want to die a peaceful, painless death.

As for his point that, had assisted dying been legal, they “might never have had the opportunity to enjoy the precious months together”, I would suggest that as in most cases we do not know when the “last few months” will be, we should endeavour to make every moments of our lives with our loved ones precious.
Christiane Goaziou
Wotton Under Edge, Gloucestershire

• John Inge argues that had assisted dying been legal when his wife, Denise, was diagnosed with cancer or suffering the dreadful effects of her chemo it would have been “tempting” for him to suggest that it would be “for the best” and this would have deprived his wife of the “precious time” allowed by a short period of respite before her death.

Perhaps, but does this that mean others in a similar situation should be denied the right to make this choice: a choice to enabling “a precious end to life” by a different route. For some, assisted dying will provide an opportunity to end their lives in the way they wish, a little prematurely certainly, but peacefully, avoiding severe mental and physical deterioration and the accompanying agonies. Knowing assisted dying is a choice they can make may indeed enable the terminally ill to “live more freely and fully” during the final days of their lives, as did Denise.

John Inge’s wife found a way through suffering and dying that worked well for her but this does not give him the right to deny others a different path.
Ann Hislop
Cambridge

In 1983 a Korean Airlines flight from New York City to Seoul via Anchorage was shot down. Although many suspected the Soviet Union, it initially denied any knowledge of the incident. Eight years later, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world finally learned about the tampering and suppressing of evidence by the Soviet Union that delayed a thorough investigation into the crash.

While there has as yet been no concrete evidence to reveal whom to blame for the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 (Murder in the sky: missile destroys jet and kills 298, 18 July), one thing remains certain. The bereaved deserve an immediate, transparent investigation followed by appropriate compensation. Demanding answers from Russia is one thing; answering the call from the bereaved for a full investigation of the tragedy is another. Responding to the latter is justice best served.
Siyoung Choi
Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea

• Whoever was responsible for “mistakenly” shooting down the Malaysian airliner, they are unlikely to share the fate of Will Rogers III, captain of the USS Vincennes when it shot down an Iranian Airbus in 1988 because it was thought to be a warplane. Rogers faced no court martial, the deaths of hundreds go unanswered by justice, and Rogers was given a medal.
Alistair Richardson
Stirling

• I wonder if Vladimir Putin is still the world leader that Nigel Farage admires most (Report, 31 March)?
David Walker
Ipswich

The Imperial War Museum has always questioned the impact of war and the £40m refurbishment programme is to be welcomed (Museum’s new look at a century of warfare, 17 July). However, readers may not be aware that as IWM London reopens, the country’s only peace museum is in serious financial difficulty. Ironically we currently have more work with schools, colleges and community groups than we can cope with and have developed a business plan which will enable us to be self-financing within three years, but in the meantime we need £60,000 if we are to continue our work beyond the autumn. Readers can find out more at peacemuseum.org.uk.
David Kennedy
Trustee, The Peace Museum, Bradford

• John Marjoram (Letters, 17 July) seeks more detailed poll reporting as “helpful and for political transparency”. Personally I would prefer to see the findings accompanied by the margin of error, which might assist us in putting in perspective the conclusions drawn from them by “experts”.
George Redman
London

• A tunnel has a beginning and an end. Why is it necessary for Israel to launch a ground offensive into densely populated Gaza (Report, 18 July) to destroy the tunnels when the other end is on the Israeli side?
Mary Wightman
Carnforth, Lancashire

• Surely, on the day after his departure as education secretary, the squeezy stress figure of Michael Gove should have been reduced in price (Advert on page 21, G2, 16 July)?
Jennifer Henley
London

Yvonne Robert’s article “A feminist party? Perfect. Provided it didn’t last too long“, (Comment), chimed with a relatively recent experience in Northern Ireland – the North of Ireland, or whatever you call it yourself. Indeed I am surprised that she failed to reference the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition. As some of your readers might remember, this was a political coalition (deliberately not named as a party) that drew its membership from women from both nationalist/republican and unionist/loyalist traditions. It modelled its intent by having a leadership-share arrangement; one from each of the main communal backgrounds. The coalition knew that it would never hold the position as minister of agriculture (or indeed any other ministry), so rather than having detailed policies on suckling calves it worked to three principles – social/political inclusion, equality and human rights. All the political positions that were adopted – many of them controversial – were discussed and filtered through the lens of these principles.

The coalition made a contribution to political debate over a 10-year period before its graceful exit back into civil society activism. There is still much to be done to ensure the adequate and appropriate representation of women in electoral politics in both Northern Ireland and across the United Kingdom, but there are examples that politics can be done differently. A first step might be acknowledging the fact that politics is about more than the management of the state, it’s about meeting the challenge of developing a relationship between representative and participative democracy.

Avila Kilmurray

Belfast

For many years I have been trying to make the point that women must have the bold support of male feminists. Male feminists such as myself have no wish to take over or dominate the debate; women know what is best for them. But it is absurd to think that the feminist movement is by its nature exclusively female.

I am not prepared simply to see women allowed into certain archaic male roles. We must have women determining the structures, ethics, and the very philosophy of our society, having been forcibly denied this for at least 30 centuries. We must fight this together – and conquer.

Ian Flintoff

Oxford

As Yvonne Roberts so amply demonstrated, the problem with defining feminism as “individual flourishing” is that it takes no account of the cultural pervasiveness of gender stereotyping. You have only to look at the weekly macho ritual baying, personal attacks and point scoring of prime minister’s questions and the dismissive hostility to Harriet Harman’s serious analysis of the difficulties capable women have in political life. Why should it be considered such a compliment that the women likely to be promoted are not to be afraid to say testicles in the House of Commons? Do we promote men because they are unafraid of saying vagina on the floor of the House?

Of course we need more women in high political office to change political culture and make it more relevant to the issues faced by so many women on a daily basis. But we also need to change popular culture, including films, books, magazines and television, so the norm is not for women to be in support roles to their active men folk, attractive but essentially passive, or the exception who stands out as an oddity.

But bringing about changes in popular culture is as difficult as achieving true political change. I was a first-wave feminist when we had to fight such strange causes as to have our own chequebooks if we had a joint account with our husbands and not be dismissed as intellectually, emotionally and physically inferior. But it depresses me how little we have really achieved since the 1960s and 1970s. We need to celebrate women taking initiatives, taking charge and carrying out all types of roles without excluding men, but we also need to show women’s perspective on the world as opposed to just men’s.

Thirza Rochester

Exmouth, Devon

Independent:

Zoë Harcombe states that the obesity epidemic started when we followed the “wrong” kind of dietary advice (“Gastric bands are as useful as a plaster on a severed artery”, 13 July). I think the simpler explanation is that more food is being processed, and more food is being offered where previously it wasn’t.

Councils and local authorities have allowed a proliferation of fast-food outlets, often within yards of each other. There used to be planning laws which stated that similar trades could not operate in close proximity, these have been so relaxed that there are often six or seven outlets within the same block, many remaining open all day capitalising on the after-school trade. Cinemas sell popcorn in buckets and sugary drinks by the litre. Most hospitals are replete with vending machines that offer nothing other than unhealthy snacks and drinks, often to patients who are there because of their intake of such.

There’ll be no change from the food manufacturers, the Government is too weak to enforce that and councils will keep allowing fast-food outlets, they want the business rates. But there can be very little sympathy for the NHS “struggling” with the increasing “obesity epidemic” when it’s contributing to it.

Geoff Hulme

Altrincham, Cheshire

Joan Smith’s rant about Harriet Harman’s failure to become deputy prime minister seems to assume women have the right to promotion simply because they are female (13 July). Harman claims victim status which is something we can all do. I would like to welcome you to the world of the single, white, middle-aged male where I get used as a cash cow to pay taxes for all the supposed hard-working families while getting very little in the way of benefits. Women still get their pensions earlier than men. Is Smith complaining about that? Are any women refusing to accept it early in solidarity with men?

Rob Edwards

Harrogate, Yorkshire

John Rentoul (13 July) thinks voters “will shy away from Miliband”. But people cast their ballot for the party rather than its leader, and those who’ve suffered from the Coalition’s austerity programme will want to see Cameron ousted. Rentoul says Neil Kinnock’s unpopularity in 1992 led to Labour’s defeat, but I recall Edward Heath beating Harold Wilson in 1970 and Margaret Thatcher defeating James Callaghan in 1979. Both times the outgoing prime ministers were more popular than their successors. Personality isn’t everything.

Tim Mickleburgh

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

John Rentoul obviously thinks Miliband losing would be a good thing. I’m not sure who he envisages forming the next government, but if it is the likes of Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt and Chris Grayling, I can see why he keeps quiet.

Keith Flett

London N17

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TIPP) could give authorities the right to sue governments over laws designed to protect workers and the environment (“Protesters fear trade deal will ‘carve open’ health service” 13 July). An understanding of how this deal could violate human rights led the public out en-masse last weekend in opposition to the treaty.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb

Green Party Group, London Assembl

Times:

The relentless delegation of screening, examination and treatment is neither good practice nor a cost-effective use of resources

Sir, The role of high street health specialists — pharmacists, optometrists, dentists, hearing experts, chiropodists and others — should not be undervalued (letter, July 17). However, the relentless delegation of screening, examination and treatment that should be performed by doctors is neither good practice nor a cost-effective use of resources.

In my speciality, ophthalmology, outsourcing of care for several medical eye conditions to high street optometrists has resulted in fragmentation of care, and multiplication of demands with the net result that patients are visiting several places for the same condition and costing the NHS a lot more than should be the case.

Most worrying is the impact it is having on the training and experience of our junior doctors.

Nikhil Kaushik

Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon

Wrexham

Sir, Your correspondents hypothesise that other sources of healthcare advice in the community would redirect a proportion of less serious enquiries away from GPs and thereby relieve some of the pressures on the NHS.

There is no evidence to support this. The past 15 years have seen an explosion of information from the internet, and an increase in the involvement of pharmacies, walk-in-centres, paramedics and other health professionals. Consultation rates in GP surgeries have almost doubled over the same period.

There are three keys to understanding this. The first is that the buck stops with GPs. The information offered on every packet of medication, self-care advice sheet or guidance for non-doctors, will finish by suggesting that the GP should be contacted for advice in the event of any further questions. My emergency surgeries are full of people who have already sought advice from another source and are “just coming to double-check that this is correct”.

The second point is that information per se always raises more questions than it answers. For every explanation there is always a subsidiary point that might need to be clarified. Einstein noted that “as the circle of light increases, so does the circumference of darkness”.

The final point is that quicker access to services reduces rather than enhances the ability of people to learn about the natural history of minor complaints.

Paradoxically, if information and advice were less available, more people would realise that not only do most symptoms resolve on their own, but that waiting a little helps to differentiate accurately those rarer times when symptoms are more serious.

Our health service is overburdened by a toxic mixture of too much information, epidemic levels of health anxiety, and too great an intolerance of minor symptoms. More well-intentioned advice from other primary care agencies in the high street will only make things worse.

Dr Yealand Kalfayan

Bristol

It is wasteful to use parliamentary time to enact legislation, which will not change the law, purely for public relations purposes

Sir, We are surprised by the Conservative Party’s proposal to legislate to reassert the power of the Queen in Parliament to legislate inconsistently with judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.

Such legislation would have no legal effect, since the Queen in Parliament already has that power, and nothing enacted in national law can affect the responsibilities of the European Court of Human Rights in international law. It seems wasteful to use parliamentary time to enact legislation, which will not change the law, purely for public relations purposes.

Christine Bell, Professor of Constitutional Law, University of Edinburgh

John Bell, Professor of Law, University of Cambridge

Michael Freeman, Professor of English Law, University College London

Paul Craig, Professor in English Law, University of Oxford

Simon Deakin, Professor of Law, University of Cambridge

Mark Elliott, Reader in Public Law, University of Cambridge

David Feldman, Rouse Ball Professor of English Law, University of Cambridge

The PM’s choice of the eurosceptic Lord Hill for European Commissioner is, at best foolish and, at worst, intentionally hostile

Sir, The combination of power-grabbing manoeuvres by cabals in the European Parliament with (a) flight by the vast majority of members of the European Council from their treaty responsibilities as regards the choice of president of the European Commission, and the consequent appointment of someone almost universally regarded as not well suited for the job; (b) the highly politicised process of distribution of portfolios among a mini-assembly of nationally orientated commissioners, responsible for discharging key functions in the management of the Union originally regarded as necessitating a small, coherent collegiate body, owing no national or political allegiances; and (c) the prospect of persistent, debilitating tension between creditors and debtors in the Eurozone — this combination has all but deprived the institutions of the European Union of the capacity to chart a credible collective course, let alone to inspire confidence in their tenacity in pursuing it.

Sir Peter Marshall

London W8

Sir, The prime minister’s choice of the eurosceptic Lord Hill for Britain’s European Commissioner — our most eminent representational figure in the EU — is, at best foolish and, at worst, intentionally hostile. Moreover, why send a man who three weeks ago said he has no desire for the position? Surely Mr Cameron could have found somebody who wanted the job.

What the Commission really needs is someone who recognises the great social, economic and climate crises we are facing and is prepared to act for the people, not another business lobbyist prepared to act for David Cameron and the City of London.

Jean Lambert

Keith Taylor

Molly Scott Cato

Green MEPs for, respectively, London, South East and South West

It is a great disappointment that the new attorney general and solicitor general have such limited legal experience

Sir, Last week’s government changes showed that Mr Cameron is as cavalier in ignoring historic precedent as was Mr Blair. The law officers of the crown, the attorney general and the solicitor general, are the legal advisers to the government. As such they are always senior barristers of QC status.

Now we have two appointments not of QCs, but of junior members of the bar, who have both apparently had modest practices in the criminal courts. How are they to advise on the many questions of national and international law which arise? Furthermore the attorney general is by long tradition considered the leader of the English and Welsh bar. Are the ranks of QCs and other counsel of long experience in civil law expected to defer to this man?

It is bad enough to have a Lord Chancellor who is not a lawyer, but these new appointments are an insult to the legal profession.

Kenneth Stern

London W2

A mounted Gunner from The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery bore sweltering conditions with great poise and discipline

Sir, You published a photograph (July 18) of a “guardswoman” outside Buckingham Palace not welcoming the heat. She is not a guardswoman but a mounted Gunner from The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery which currently provides the Queen’s Life Guard. This soldier was on guard at Horse Guards in Whitehall. I saw her at about 2pm on the day of the photograph. Her poise and discipline were impeccable, as was that of her mount and her colleagues all of whom were plagued by armies of ghastly tourists, buzzing around them like flies. She may not have welcomed it, but she stuck it out like a soldier. Credit, I think where it is due.

Nick Bailey

Upton Lovell, Wilts

Telegraph:

SIR – You report that government ministers are considering removing allowances from hundreds of thousands of benefit claimants if they refuse to undergo treatment for mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

The IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) programme was implemented to provide talking therapies to such individuals. However, budgetary constraints have resulted in a decidedly threadbare service.

Individuals may wait up to 18 months to see a counsellor or therapist, and to keep costs down the least expensive therapists (i.e. most inexperienced) are generally employed.

Therapy sessions are usually limited to a maximum of six, irrespective of whether or not the client has shown any improvement, and the measured outcomes are very poor to say the least. The work is also highly unpopular among the therapists,

and overworked GPs are largely unwilling to get involved.

Many working in the mental health field regard the IAPT initiative as a failed experiment. The idea that “hundreds of thousands” of benefit claimants will be able to find appropriate therapy in the current system is a complete fantasy.

Dr Tom Goodfellow
Pailton, Warwickshire

Prepared for Islamists

SIR – The inescapable logic that flows from Janet Daley’s article, reinforced by Martin Maloney’s letter in the same edition, is that the British mainland needs to be prepared – both in manpower and intelligence resources – for long-term internal security operations. These might be similar to those in Northern Ireland in the last quarter of the previous century, but on a significantly larger scale.

William Pender
Salisbury, Wiltshire

SIR – Ron Kirby asks if we should “challenge anyone who looks at all suspicious” to show that we are not complacent about the terrorist threat. The answer to that has to be a resounding “No”.

Who are we, members of the general public, to decide what is “suspicious”, when those in authority seem to be even more clueless?

John Newbury
Warminster, Wiltshire

Are you being served?

SIR – I fully agree with the leaders from the drinks industry (Letters, July 13) who want Parliament to introduce a specific offence of assaulting a worker selling alcohol.

However, the industry should also acknowledge that drinkers can become impatient and frustrated if they think they are receiving poor service.

The major pub chains are usually the worst offenders. A large proportion of bar staff, including managers and supervisors, cannot pour a pint of Guinness, lose track of who is next and don’t prioritise properly between their various tasks. A better trained work force would improve the experience for everybody.

Clive Pilley
Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex

Online banking

SIR – Now we can do most of our banking without going near a branch, or having cash, chequebooks or even credit/debit cards to hand. Hallelujah!

But the central role that computers now play in banking brings with it new opportunities for criminal activity. The banking scene today resembles the Wild West. Cybercriminals are way ahead of the game, and there are more opportunities open to them than there ever were when Captain Mainwaring and his cohorts talked about requests for loans over coffee and biscuits.

Guy Parker
Braunton, Devon

SIR – The letter about the difficulties of elderly people with online banking brought to mind my grandmother, who in the early 20th century was a letter writer in the East End of London. The many elderly and less secularly educated Jews would bring letters from their families abroad to be read to them and ask for replies to be written (my grandmother could read and write seven languages). There was always a queue outside her house in Great Garden Street near Whitechapel.

There now appears to be a need for internet users who can deal with the financial matters that elderly people cannot manage. They would have to be licensed and approved by a suitable authority; or, they could be employed by the banks.

Julius Kosky
Edgware, Middlesex

High-flying women

SIR – The latter-day Amelia Earhart may be the first American woman to fly around the globe in a single-engine aircraft, but a British woman, Sheila Scott, flew around the world in a single-engine aircraft in 1966, covering about 31,000 miles in 189 hours.

Polly Vacher, another British woman, did something similar in 2001. Both these women also made epic solo flights via the poles, in aircraft much less sophisticated than today’s.

Professor Michael Bagshaw
Crowthorne, Berkshire

A Chalet fit for a spy

SIR – As an habitué of the Chalet restaurant from 1966 until its closing, I was fascinated to read of the proprietors’ famous clientele.

But I have read nowhere of their neighbours, the long-since vanished Morlands tobacconists, suppliers of my Gitanes in my youth, and purveyors of the handmade cigarettes with three gold bands to 007 James Bond. I am sure Mr Bond would have been a consumer of the Chalet’s excellent coffee to accompany his Turkish blend tobacco.

Simon Edsor
London SW1

We need a permanent infrastructure body

SIR – Britain has a poor record in identifying, planning and delivering major infrastructure projects. A protracted decision-making process has led to policy reversals in key areas such as energy and transport. We need to end this short-term, damaging culture, which undermines business investment in Britain.

We do not have the necessary machinery in place to anticipate the infrastructure we will need in the future. The forthcoming manifestos of the main political parties must address this, as forever playing catch-up does not support sustainable growth.

Britain needs a permanent, independent body tasked with looking at our future infrastructure requirements. This body would provide a trusted process through which political parties, the public, employers, unions and other stakeholders could propose solutions. It would also enable these proposals to be thoroughly assessed and analysed on a level, non-political, playing field.

Such a body must be accountable to Parliament, not to the Government, in order to provide the independence necessary to produce impartial analysis. However, the final decision on projects would only be taken by the government of the day.

Terry Scuoler
Chief Executive, EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation
Adam Marshall
Executive Director of Policy, British Chambers of Commerce
Frances O’Grady
General Secretary, TUC
John Holland-Kaye
Chief Executive, Heathrow Airport
Steven Costello
Director, Heathrow Hub
Stewart Wingate
Chief Executive, Gatwick Airport
Paul Kehoe
Chief Executive, Birmingham Airport
Darren Caplan
Chief Executive, Airport Operators Association
Geoff Dunning
Chief Executive, Road Haulage Association
Stephen Tetlow
Chief Executive, Institution of Mechanical Engineers
Rob Oliver
Chief Executive, Construction Equipment Association
Graeme Philp
Chief Executive, GAMBICA
Stuart Fell
Chairman, Metal Assemblies
Steve McQuillan
Chief Executive, Avingtrans
Colin Thornton
Managing Director, AIM Aviation

Comfort letters

SIR –Tony Blair’s approval of “comfort letters” to terrorist fugitives was a bribe, and an unnecessary one, as the IRA campaign of violence was winding down anyway.

For the sake of the victims of the bombings and shootings, the former prime minister should cease evading the issue and appear in person at Westminster to explain the secret part of the IRA deal still kept under wraps.

James Reiden
Pitlochry, Perthshire

Floating an idea

SIR – In the aircraft carrier “HMS White Elephant” (Christopher Booker, Opinion), we may have found a replacement for the Royal Yacht Britannia. Moored at Greenwich, surely little could be more British than a floating palace, with garden parties on the flight deck. She would last at least three reigns.

John Wilson
Billesdon, Leicestershire

Battersea’s ‘table legs’ need restoring, not replacing

The chimneys of Battersea Power Station are a crucial part of our Art Deco heritage

The noble chimneys of Battersea Power Station, south-west London, loom large over the Holi One festival

The noble chimneys of Battersea Power Station, south-west London, loom large over the Holi One festival  Photo: Alamy

6:59AM BST 20 Jul 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – Against the wisdom of numerous experts in the history and conservation of architecture, and astonishingly for any lover of our Art Deco heritage, the world-famous chimneys of Battersea Power Station face imminent destruction at the hands of a Malaysian-backed developer.

A “muncher” is poised to gobble up Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s iconic table legs and convert them to landfill. Even worse, they are to be replaced, if money allows, by modern fakes, complete with hideous viewing platforms and tourist lifts.

This is surely the worst act of vandalism since the summary demolition of the Firestone factory in West London in 1980. Only in 2005, a site survey confirmed that the Battersea chimneys were essentially sound, excepting some minor water damage.

The four chimneys have stood nobly, without the merest hint of a wobble, for the best part of six decades. They deserve loving restoration, not destruction.

Dr Anthony Rodriguez
Staines-upon-Thames, Middlesex

SIR – I sincerely endorse your leading article on Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill.

Patients surprise doctors all the time in the course of their illnesses, and their suffering may well cloud their judgment even if they appear to be wholly rational. A patient once asked me to “give me something, you know” as she battled against breast cancer. I declined, and she lived in reasonable comfort for a further year or more with the aid of excellent palliative care. She later thanked me for not doing as she had requested.

This Bill proposes that two doctors should sign a pro forma which states their professional opinions that the patient requesting assisted suicide is in a clear state of mind and has six months or less to live. Which doctors? Presumably they might be the clinician responsible for caring for the patient and another not professionally involved, who would not know the patient, to avoid collusion. The action of the first betrays his position and the second can hardly assess a state of mind in just an inevitably brief interview.

A similar arrangement applies with the signing of forms legitimising abortion, and we all know how that system is abused. How does this Bill insure against an unscrupulous relative attempting to bribe the two doctors with promises of a share in an anticipated large inheritance?

It is very sad that a previous Archbishop of Canterbury should have given support to this Bill. The proposal is euthanasia by the back door, as your leading article suggests. Disregarding any religious beliefs, it is a dangerous precedent.

T A Harrison FRCS
Child Okeford, Dorset

SIR – My mother, aged 98, was saved by modern medicine only to waste away and die 14 months later, bedridden and in physical and mental pain. The same happened to my grandmother, aged 85, and to my great-grandmother.

I know that they did not wish to suffer in this way, and I don’t want to, either, when the time comes. Lord Falconer’s Bill does not go far enough.

Those who advocate better palliative care know nothing of the reality to which they wish to condemn others. When my life becomes a burden to me, it will be time to die rather than lingering and suffering the indignity of further existence. The Most Rev Desmond Tutu and Lord Carey understand this. They are brave to state their position so unequivocally.

Yvonne A Frith
Brimfield, Herefordshire

SIR – You quite rightly cite Holland and Belgium as examples of where legalising assisted suicide will lead.

It is hard not to compare this prospect with the 200,000 abortions now carried out in this country annually, which the 1967 Abortion Act was never intended to sanction. It may be convenient for society to turn a blind eye to the abuse of the abortion laws and to make it easier for patients to commit suicide. That doesn’t make it right.

Tim Coles
Carlton, Bedfordshire

SIR – In defending the existing legal protections for vulnerable people, Lord Carlile of Berriew makes a crucial point – Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill, supposedly based on choice, ignores the realities of life as well as death.

No choice is made in a vacuum. Many elderly and disabled people live alone or fear to ask those closest to them for help. They even fear to “trouble” those who are paid to help them.

Strangely, the progressive answer to most social problems – raising self-esteem – has not been applied to this problem. Instead, Lord Falconer would lower the self-esteem of the sick even further by substantiating their private fears that their lives are not worth living. The Bill may apply only to the terminally ill, but there is a likelihood of “mission creep”.

We should heed the example of Holland and Belgium, but also that of abortion, which was lauded as the “right to choose”. The reality for many women is that in the absence of support from those closest to them, they feel they have no choice.

Ann Farmer
Woodford Green, Essex

Irish Times:

Sir, – Jimmy Deenihan has been appointed Minister of State for the diaspora. This can be viewed as further evidence of a recent and improving trend in the State’s relationship with the Irish abroad.

In the past 15 years alone, a dedicated “Irish Abroad Unit” has been established within the Department of Foreign Affairs, and exists alongside the Global Irish Economic Forum, the Global Irish Network, and immigration centres in Canada and Australia. These initiatives join the State’s Emigrant Support Programme, which funds almost 200 community organisations in over 20 countries, in a continued effort to recognise and invest in our citizens overseas.

Mr Deenihan himself has a long history of interest in this area. It is, as the Taoiseach put it, his “niche”. In a Dáil debate 23 years ago, he supported a Labour Party Bill that, if passed, would have allowed Irish citizens to retain voting rights in Ireland for a period of 15 years after emigrating. Debating that Bill in March 1991, he said: “Our emigrants have the potential to make a major contribution to our country. Many of them have been very successful in the various countries to which they emigrated and made contributions in different ways to life in those countries. By attracting their interest, giving them recognition and a feeling they have a role to play and a contribution to make in our country, we can only enhance our reputation as a caring nation.”

Mr Deenihan’s first order of business is likely to be issuing a response to last September’s constitutional convention, which ruled overwhelmingly in favour of allowing Irish citizens abroad to participate in Irish presidential elections.

The vast majority of modern democracies – over 130 states worldwide – have enacted provisions that count and account for their citizens overseas. Mr Deenihan, with a specifically developed portfolio and an proven interest in the diaspora, has an opportunity to modernise our attitude towards migration, citizenship, and the intersection of the two. – Yours, etc,

CONOR O’NEILL,

Rue Wayenberg,

Ixelles, Brussels;

DAVID BURNS,

Rue de l’Amiral Roussin,

Paris.

A chara, – Further to the appointment of Ministers with responsibility for the Gaeltacht, our Taoiseach would be well advised to recall the words of Nelson Mandela, “If you speak to a man in a language he understands, it goes to his head. If you speak to him in his own language, it goes to his heart.” – Is mise,

SEÁN Ó RIAIN,

Gort an tSeagail,

Achadh an Iúir,

Contae an Chábháin.

A chara, – Having a Minister of State who is responsible for Irish-language matters but who does not speak Irish sends out a poor message and will ensure snide remarks about Ireland.

The Irish state cannot be neutral about the Irish language. It is the only state that can support the Irish language.

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny should rectify this situation immediately by appointing himself an tAire Gaeltachta and make it a priority that Irish is properly supported by the State. – Is mise,

SEANÁN Ó COISTÍN,

Rue Tony Dutreux,

Bonnevoie,

Luxembourg.

Sir, – There was a minor controversy last year when the newly designed Irish passports began to be issued, and several people remarked on the background design of one of the pages, which incorporated images of musical instruments associated with Ireland. Those included were the accordion, banjo and bodhrán, relatively recent introductions to Irish music. The instruments that have won a global audience for Irish music, in former and in modern times – the harp and the uilleann pipes – were left out, and their absence was remarked upon and criticised by Kevin Conneff of The Chieftains, among others.

Now “Official Ireland” has done it again. A set of stamps was issued by An Post in May as part of the Europe-wide Europa series, on the theme “national musical instruments”.

The An Post website tells us that the stamps feature the harp, “the classic Irish musical instrument”, and the bodhrán, “the most popular”.

It is difficult to know how to respond. Difficult indeed not to feel that one’s leg is being pulled! The harp is indeed Ireland’s “classic musical instrument”, and the Irish harp attracted the attention and admiration of foreign observers for 700 years, from Norman times up to the beginning of the 19th century, when the unique Irish wire-strung harp ceased to be played. Examples of this instrument survive, the Trinity College harp, for instance, or Denis Hempson’s harp which is to be seen in the Guinness Storehouse.

Unfortunately the stamp designers chose to depict, not the kind of harp that was celebrated for centuries, but a 19th-century instrument – one that does not deliver the sound that entranced Europe for centuries.

As for the bodhrán being “the most popular instrument” in Irish music, I can only suggest that the question be put to the people who actually play the music, on pipes, harp, fiddle, flute, box, concertina, whistle or banjo.

No tune was ever played on a bodhrán, although the late lamented Sliabh Luachra fiddle player Paudie Gleeson raised many a smile with his yarn about the man in his district who “knew all the tunes”. The punchline was that this musical genius turned out to be a bodhrán player.

Those who hold and play the music continue to be slighted. There are national institutions that would readily provide any advice or information required – the Irish Traditional Music Archive, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and ourselves, to name only the most well-known. All that designers have to do is ask. – Yours, etc,

TERRY MOYLAN,

Archivist,

Na Píobairí Uilleann,

15 Henrietta Street,

Dublin 1.

Sir, – My mother is 90 years old and is recovering from a major operation in Tallaght Hospital. She has recovered sufficiently to go home with a homecare package but the HSE has cut the funding for this. My mother is in a surgical ward whose resources would be far better used for patients that need the care of a surgical team. The expense of this bed must far outweigh the expense of having a carer come in for a couple of hours a day. This would be for a short period until she could manage to look after herself as she had been doing prior to her operation. Is this the way the HSE is saving money? – Yours, etc,

MARION O’CONNOR,

Columbanus Road,

Dundrum, Dublin 14.

Sir, – Whenever the European Parliament gains more influence, commentators complain that is has “seized” or “grabbed” power, as though it had mounted an undemocratic coup or putsch.

They ignore the fact that the European Parliament is the only directly elected institution at the European level. Increasing its influence strengthens its capability to exercise democratic control over the activities of councils and commissions. Even the European Court of Justice will learn, like the US Supreme Court, to “keep an eye on the last election”.

If the European Parliament is to fulfil its potential, however, voters need to interest themselves in the work of their MEPs, and to keep constant pressure on them just as they (should) do on the members of their national parliaments. – Yours, etc,

MICHAEL DRURY,

Avenue Louise,

Brussels.

A chara, – Barbara Nolan (July 16th) cites an estimate that the Transatlantic Free Trade Area would benefit the EU economy by €119 billion – or €545 per person – but without including the necessary caveats from Joseph Francois’ report on the matter. The figures quoted are the upper estimates and are envisioned as realistic by 2027. Perhaps the public would be better informed if the negotiations were more open and transparent. – Is mise,

SHANE

Mac GHIOLLA PHÁDRAIG,

North Circular Road,

Phibsboro,

Dublin 7.

Sir, – Further to Simon Carswell’s “The highs and lows of legalised marijuana” (July 12th), which examined the legal status of the drug in the US, it is clear that the days when politicians could get away with confusing the drug war’s tremendous collateral damage with a comparatively harmless plant are coming to an end. If the goal of marijuana prohibition is to subsidise violent drug cartels and open a gateway to the harder drugs they sell, prohibition is a grand success. The drug war distorts supply and demand dynamics so that big money grows on little trees. If the goal is to deter use, marijuana prohibition is a catastrophic failure.

Consider the experience of the former land of the free and current record holder in citizens incarcerated. The United States has almost double the rate of marijuana use as the Netherlands, where marijuana is legally available. The criminalisation of people who prefer marijuana to martinis has no basis in science. The war on marijuana consumers is a failed cultural inquisition, not an evidence-based public health campaign. Ireland should follow the lead of Colorado and Washington state. It’s time to stop the pointless arrests and instead tax legal marijuana. – Yours, etc,

ROBERT SHARPE,

Common Sense

for Drug Policy,

PO Box 59181,

Washington, DC.

Sir, – Imagine this scenario. I am living in the United States and I buy a ticket to a Garth Brooks concert “subject to licence”. The licence was granted for the date shown on my ticket and the singer simply decided not to perform. The same situation applied to 240,000 other customers. Would those customers quietly accept this? Or would there instead be a class action lawsuit to bring the performer to his senses?

I am sure that Mr Brooks is relieved to be getting off so lightly from his long-abandoned Irish fans, otherwise more than his heart would be crushed. – Yours, etc,

DAMIEN OWENS,

Clontarf,

Dublin 3.

Sir, – Our planning laws have been drawn up by members of the Oireachtas. These laws require council officials to make difficult decisions that balance different interests. Rather than publicly criticising officials for their decision-making, Oireachtas members should focus on amending the laws if they feel that they can be improved.– Yours, etc,

TOM SHEEDY,

Seapark,

Malahide,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – I have avoided participating in the various campaigns on this issue; clean water costs money to supply, and deserves economical use. Metering is basically a good idea, as it discourages waste. I have, however, been appalled by the way metering policy has been imposed, with intrusive installation of an inaccessible meter at what must be a high cost. Has no-one system-analysed the options?

My initial concept was an accessible, legible meter at the house entry-point, usually the hallway, enabling a householder to keep tabs on house-water use easily. This idea of accessible house-based metering was rejected in favour of ripping up the footpath and installing a meter readable by the householder only with difficulty, if at all.

The reason given was that leakage in the in-pipe is a householder responsibility. This seems to me to be a high-cost solution to a low-cost problem.

It should be possible for a meter on a branch of the main system to keep track of the consumption in a group of houses served by the branch. This could be matched statistically with the consumption as recorded in the houses. A discrepancy would imply a leak. During a dry spell, portable instrumentation could be used to detect leak water locations, and the leak repaired. If the leak is in a house-feed pipe, the user would be charged a fee.

Would it perhaps be possible to pilot a system like this, in some area as yet unserviced, and keep an eye on the comparative costs, and user acceptance? – Yours, etc,

ROY H W JOHNSTON,

Rathmines Park,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – The re-emergence of “property ladder anxiety” is an unwelcome development. It appears to result from relentless price-hyping by the media, the presence of a wealthy investor class and the limited availability of houses in major cities. A strategic decision needs to be made by Government to encourage an increase in the availability of family homes. A reasonably simple approach would be to reduce capital gains tax from the currently (prohibitive) 33 per cent to 12.5 per cent for a limited period of time (for example, 18 months) on investment properties sold to owner occupiers. This would result in the liberation of many current rental houses to families, and would help level the playing field between cash buyers and those seeking mortgage finance. – Yours, etc,

PATRICK NELIGAN,

Barna, Co Galwa

Sir, – As a reader of The Irish Times for the past 30 years, I am deeply concerned at your apparent attempt to undermine the asylum seeker accommodation system.

You have published three articles by various contributors, each setting out why the system should be abandoned while ignoring the reason it was introduced in the first place. In addition, you have published seven letters from readers criticising the system.

I have searched in vain for any article or letter from a contributor supporting the system.– Yours, etc,

TIM DENNEHY,

Oakfields,

Fr Russell Road, Limerick.

Sir, – “Buttevant’s ancient horse fair attracts eager crowd” (July 15th) states that a local historian claims Napoleon’s white Arabian horse Marengo was bought at Cahirmee fair. In fact the horse was born in Egypt and obtained by the emperor during his Egyptian campaign. Marengo was captured after the Battle of Waterloo and died in England some years later.

The article also finishes with the statement that the Duke of Wellington’s equally famous horse, Copenhagen, was “purchased at Cahirmee about 1810”. Wellington’s horse was first owned by Lord Grosvenor and named after the eponymous battle at which both Grosvenor and Wellington were brigade commanders. Grosvenor’s mare was in foal with Copenhagen at the Battle of Copenhagen and the foal was later raced, to little avail, before being purchased by another officer in the Peninsular War. The horse then passed into Wellington’s hands and stayed so until its death, when it was buried on Wellington’s Hampshire estate.

Horses and tall tales often go together. – Yours, etc,

NOEL LEAHY,

Knockbrack,

Abbeyfeale,

A chara, – Like Prof Bert G Hornback (July 14th), I also “don’t want to walk down the vulgar, noisy Grafton Street”, with its music music everywhere, and nary a note to savour. Busking can be delightful, but when it is amplified and competing and clashing with itself and the ever-present muzak from the shops, it turns into muz-eeeeeek. – Is mise,

MARY McCARRICK,

Tower Avenue,

Rathgar,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – Limerick has many claims to fame, but it was not the birthplace of “the glamorous and dangerous Lola Montez” (An Irishman’s Diary, July 16th).

The adventuress and exotic dancer, whose affair with the king of Bavaria (grandfather of the even madder “Mad King Ludwig”) led to his downfall, was actually born in Grange, Co Sligo, between Ben Bulben and the Atlantic Ocean. – Yours, etc,

Dr JOHN DOHERTY

Cnoc an Stollaire,

Gaoth Dobhair, Co Donegal.

Sir, – I see John A Murphy (July 18th) has challenged Gerry Adams to a public debate. Will tickets be readily available, or will it be “subject to licence”? – Yours, etc,

D O’SHEA,

Pinecroft,

Grange, Cork.

Sir, – I am producing a monograph of my paintings with Gandon Editions for 2015, and I would be so grateful if any of your readers, who may have my paintings, would be able to send me images of paintings that I made quite a long time ago. (elizabeth@elizabethcope.com) – Yours, etc,

ELIZABETH COPE,

Shankill Castle,

Paulstown,

Co Kilkenny.

Irish Independent:

* Some time ago I had the chance to read an excellent piece written to commemorate the “death” of common sense which, I think you’ll agree, is very apt given that we live in the age of ubiquitous reality television and increasingly intrusive social media yet complain about government surveillance. We might then also mourn the passing of another age-old companion: realism. In my opinion, this long-time check on fantasy and delusion is sadly ‘knocking on heaven’s door’.

Several instances of this have been seen over the past few weeks and months but I would like to single out the British reaction to the MH17 disaster and US foreign policy towards the Ukraine crisis as being exceptional. In the wake of the downing of Malaysia Airlines‘ Flight 17, the international community is expected to do something to bring the perpetrators to some kind of justice. And rightly so. Those who commit such acts should be punished. But the politics of the situation in eastern Ukraine are taking precedence over law. No European state wants to annoy Russia. Yet governments are still desperate to be seen to be “doing something”.

US foreign policy on Ukraine is remarkably toothless. To put it simply, they are letting a bully get away with tearing up a state based on ethnic lines – something that most enlightened liberals would tell us no evolved state should do. A forceful response, perhaps the deployment of peacekeepers to the region would be a welcome sign of US resolve. Instead we have been treated to appeasement. Appeasement only makes the aggressor more aggressive.

Yet I do not think we in this country should get too cocky. Our history is saturated with examples of people who engaged in what common sense would state were stupid rebellions, determined to die romantic martyrs deaths with no thought given to a realistic prolonged struggle. The only one who bucked that trend was Michael Collins and he won.

COLIN SMITH, CLARA, CO OFFALY

IT ISN’T TIME FOR HOLLOW RHETORIC

* No truer words were expressed than those in the Irish Independent editorial (July 19) in response to the callous destruction of flight MH17. The absence of real leadership, genuine moral courage, or even a shared sense of humanity is sadly lacking across the globe among those who ought to abundantly demonstrate these qualities.

Regrettably, the bland and anaemic statement from our own Foreign Minister, Charles Flanagan, offered little to inspire. He remarked that Ireland “fully supports calls for a full, independent, investigation” to establish the cause of the destruction of MH17, without any elaboration. He advised that he is continuing to “monitor the situation closely through our embassies in Prague and The Hague“. But he did not state that he was actually going to do anything in response to this grotesque atrocity.

Are his remarks really the best possible expression of Ireland’s leadership, values, moral courage and shared sense of humanity in response to such a grievous attack on humanity by anonymous, camouflaged cowards? If so, our foreign policy has not advanced from the era of the ‘Skibbereen Eagle’, which, from time to time, admonished the British prime minister, the Russian emperor and the German emperor and reminded them that the Eagle ‘had its eye on you’.

The difference that ministers make is judged by what they do and accomplish; not by passive gestures and empty rhetoric.

MYLES DUFFY, GLENAGEARY, CO DUBLIN

TELL IT TO THE BIRDS . . .

* The recent comments of Senator Ned O’Sullivan should be put in a historical context.

The O’Sullivan name is said to be inherited from an ancestor, whose wounds in an ancient battle left him with only one eye.

The Irish for one eye is: suil amhain from which the name O’Sullivan is derived. However, the truth about how this injury was obtained is more prosaic. He was pecked in one eye by a seagull – a Dublin seagull! The Irish for seagull is Faoilean. Ever since, there has been enmity between the Dub O’Faoileans (seagulls), and the Kerry O’Sullivans (one-eyed Kerrymen). The accusation that a Dublin seagull stole a child’s lollipop, which was made on the floor of the Seanad, was a new low (oh the calumny!) in this long-running feud.

No detail was given as to the nature of the lollipop. Was it red, orange or yellow? Was it strawberry, raspberry or orange flavoured? The description of the child is also vague. Was it male or female? Did the child have flaxen, raven-coloured or red hair? Why haven’t the guards been told? Perhaps the reason for the lack of detail in his account is that one of Ned’s eyes ain’t so good. Ned also complained that the seagulls were making a racket on the roof of his apartment. One can only infer from this that Kerry seagulls are quite different. They do not engage in unseemly squawking and cackling as those Dub seagulls do. No, they engage with each other in soft melodic Kerry tweets.

No doubt the good senator has been overcome with homesickness for his native Kerry where the seagulls are more convivial company.

MICHAEL DOHENY, WATERFORD

TAKING A SHARE OF THE BLAME

* Seamus French wonders why nobody has been held accountable for the current economic crisis (Letters, July 19). Has he not heard that Fianna Fail were decimated at General Election 2011? Does he not know that the flawless hindsight brigade decided Fianna Fail wrecked the economy and bankrupted the country?

We love a scapegoat in Ireland and Fianna Fail fitted the role perfectly. Labour as we all know is the scape-goat for having the neck to enter government to continue the harsh economic corrective measures started by Fianna Fail after the 2008 collapse.

Remember two reports provided in recent months. One was that €30bn had been borrowed on the equity of homes and €50bn borrowed by SMEs (50pc impaired) during the period we call the Celtic Tiger. These jaw-dropping reports spread the need for accountability a lot wider than the scapegoats we have already selected as our outlet for venom.

PATRICK MONKS, PALMERSTOWN, DUBLIN

HAMAS ‘USING HUMAN SHIELDS’

* Eamonn Meehan’s condemnation of Israel is full of inaccuracies (Letters, July 18). For one thing Israel is not “occupying” Gaza; it left Gaza in 2005. Over the years Gaza has received massive amounts of international aid but much of this has been dissipated through corruption by Hamas and on rocket sites for terrorist operations against Israel.

It is a sad state of affairs that a so-called human rights organisation like Trocaire never bothers to criticise Hamas for its treatment of Palestinians: its murder and torture of other Palestinians, and its oppression of Christians and women who are second-class citizens.

Israel is not “collectively punishing” Gaza as Mr Meehan suggests. Israel is fighting in Gaza solely and purely because Hamas is in control of Gaza and is in a state of war with Israel. It is Hamas which is inflicting collective punishment on the civilians of Gaza by using Palestinian civilians in Gaza as human shields. It is Hamas which began this latest conflict, it is Hamas which rejected a ceasefire brokered by Egypt on Tuesday, and it is Hamas which pointlessly keeps this conflict going.

DEREK O’FLYNN, PRESS OFFICER, EMBASSY OF ISRAEL

Irish Independent

Pouring

July 20, 2014

20 July2014 Pouring

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. A very damp day

ScrabbleIwins, but gets over 400. perhaps Marywill win tomorrow.

Obituary:

Alan Stanbrook – obituary

Alan Stanbrook was a journalist who championed world cinema and brought an informed waspishness to his film criticism

Alan Stanbrook

Alan Stanbrook

6:22PM BST 17 Jul 2014

CommentsComments

Alan Stanbrook, who has died aged 76, was among Fleet Street’s most respected writers about cinema, and contributed many obituaries on the subject to The Telegraph.

His accounts of the lives of actors, actresses and directors were always highly intelligent and informative, but Stanbrook did not shrink from an occasional waspishness where he thought it appropriate.

For example, while acknowledging the brilliance and importance of the French New Wave director Alain Resnais, Stanbrook was able to say of Resnais’s film Providence (1977), starring John Gielgud: “The celebrated actor played an ageing novelist sitting for most of the film on a garden lavatory, seeking a subject for his next book. The novelist’s family appear to him in various guises, and Resnais’s preoccupations report for duty once again: identity, time, place and whether what we are watching is real or imaginary. By this stage in his career few people were still trying to make literal sense of a Resnais film; it was a relief not to have to try.”

Alan Geoffrey Stanbrook was born at Worthing, Sussex, on May 27 1938, the only son of an accountant. On leaving Worthing High School after A-levels, he did National Service with the Army, where as part of his duties he learned to type, giving him the opportunity to contribute reviews to the magazine Films and Filming. His interest in film had been established in boyhood (he also relished amateur dramatics, particularly when allowed to take the role of a villain), and he was already a member of the Sussex Film Society.

Stanbrook then went up to Jesus College, Oxford, to read Modern Languages (Italian and French), developing his lifelong interest in opera — Verdi, Puccini and Wagner would become particular favourites. This interest in the arts was not, however, reflected in his early choice of career: his first job was as a writer for a financial magazine, from which he moved on to the weekly Investors Chronicle. He then went to The Economist as deputy financial editor, and in the mid-Eighties the magazine asked him to start an arts section. Stanbrook had found his true métier. He also undertook freelance work for the British Film Institute’s monthly Sight & Sound.

In 1989 he was hired by The Telegraph, where he was a respected writer about film until his retirement in 2001. He then continued to contribute to the paper: not only obituaries, but also reviews of DVDs.

To the end of his life Stanbrook made annual trips to the Far East to attend film festivals — he had a keen interest in Asian cinema, and harboured a particular admiration for the Japanese directors Kenji Mizoguchi and Yasujiro Ozu; he also had extensive knowledge of the French New Wave and Italian films.

Alan Stanbrook married, in 1968, Marva Watson, who survives him with their son.

Alan Stanbrook, born May 27 1938, died July 4 2014

Guardian:

Yvonne Robert’s article “A feminist party? Perfect. Provided it didn’t last too long“, (Comment), chimed with a relatively recent experience in Northern Ireland – the North of Ireland, or whatever you call it yourself. Indeed I am surprised that she failed to reference the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition. As some of your readers might remember, this was a political coalition (deliberately not named as a party) that drew its membership from women from both nationalist/republican and unionist/loyalist traditions. It modelled its intent by having a leadership-share arrangement; one from each of the main communal backgrounds. The coalition knew that it would never hold the position as minister of agriculture (or indeed any other ministry), so rather than having detailed policies on suckling calves it worked to three principles – social/political inclusion, equality and human rights. All the political positions that were adopted – many of them controversial – were discussed and filtered through the lens of these principles.

The coalition made a contribution to political debate over a 10-year period before its graceful exit back into civil society activism. There is still much to be done to ensure the adequate and appropriate representation of women in electoral politics in both Northern Ireland and across the United Kingdom, but there are examples that politics can be done differently. A first step might be acknowledging the fact that politics is about more than the management of the state, it’s about meeting the challenge of developing a relationship between representative and participative democracy.

Avila Kilmurray

Belfast

For many years I have been trying to make the point that women must have the bold support of male feminists. Male feminists such as myself have no wish to take over or dominate the debate; women know what is best for them. But it is absurd to think that the feminist movement is by its nature exclusively female.

I am not prepared simply to see women allowed into certain archaic male roles. We must have women determining the structures, ethics, and the very philosophy of our society, having been forcibly denied this for at least 30 centuries. We must fight this together – and conquer.

Ian Flintoff

Oxford

As Yvonne Roberts so amply demonstrated, the problem with defining feminism as “individual flourishing” is that it takes no account of the cultural pervasiveness of gender stereotyping. You have only to look at the weekly macho ritual baying, personal attacks and point scoring of prime minister’s questions and the dismissive hostility to Harriet Harman’s serious analysis of the difficulties capable women have in political life. Why should it be considered such a compliment that the women likely to be promoted are not to be afraid to say testicles in the House of Commons? Do we promote men because they are unafraid of saying vagina on the floor of the House?

Of course we need more women in high political office to change political culture and make it more relevant to the issues faced by so many women on a daily basis. But we also need to change popular culture, including films, books, magazines and television, so the norm is not for women to be in support roles to their active men folk, attractive but essentially passive, or the exception who stands out as an oddity.

But bringing about changes in popular culture is as difficult as achieving true political change. I was a first-wave feminist when we had to fight such strange causes as to have our own chequebooks if we had a joint account with our husbands and not be dismissed as intellectually, emotionally and physically inferior. But it depresses me how little we have really achieved since the 1960s and 1970s. We need to celebrate women taking initiatives, taking charge and carrying out all types of roles without excluding men, but we also need to show women’s perspective on the world as opposed to just men’s.

Thirza Rochester

Exmouth, Devon

What is the best way forward for the BBC? Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

The Observer, like so many others, is right to recognise that the BBC faces both a crisis in credibility and accountability (“The BBC must evolve – to ensure its future“, leader, Comment). However if the BBC is worth saving, it won’t be by privatising it, thereby giving away this substantial national asset to the forces of vested interest. If the last 20 years has taught us anything, it’s that the social marketisation, in health, education, the arts, etc, results in public-owned resources being virtually gifted to an unaccountable self-selecting managerial elite, who pay themselves what they like via damaging erosions in worker employment standards and service provision.

An answer, maybe, is to campaign for direct electoral representation in this important public service. Certainly, privatisation – at a time when the case for rail renationalisation is becoming indisputable – is more undemocratic and a step in the wrong direction.

Dr Gavin Lewis

Manchester

Tobacco farmers treated well

Jamie Doward takes a strong line against BAT Uganda, including claims, through a quote from the Tobacco Control Research Group that: “BAT is fostering a system of credit bondage whereby tobacco farmers are continually indebted to the company” (“British tobacco giant ‘tried blackmail’ in fight against tough anti-smoking laws in Uganda“, News).

As an operator in the smallholder production space in Uganda, I can say that BAT’s extension services and management of contracted outgrowers is seen as an example of best practice by business and the development sector. In no other industry is there the same level of investment in farmers through training and transparent buying. The “credit bondage” is in fact an interest-free loan of inputs that allows farmers’ productivity, and therefore revenue, to be increased at least threefold compared with production without such assistance.

Both sides benefit, the farmer through improved revenue and the company through higher volume and better quality.

Alex Elphinstone

Managing director

D, Yield Uganda Ltd

Kampala, Uganda

Our cruelty towards weight

Barbara Ellen is depressingly accurate about society’s perception of “fat people” in my experience (“The overweight deserve help, not sneers or malice“, Comment).

I have watched my brother battle for 25 years with his weight and his feelings of self-loathing, shame and depression. He is, as Ellen describes, an “emotional overeater” whose problems stem from unresolved grief. Publicly he is the archetypal jolly fat bloke, but in reality he experiences taunts and stares daily and chooses to work nights as a security guard on a disused site so that people can’t see him. He was forced to leave that job last month because he was being ridiculed.

He and I know he needs to confront the complex issues that have made him the way he is, but he struggles to lift his self-esteem and I can see why. Why is society so unforgiving about the overweight? Where has the compassion gone? I see my kids so tender and kind with their lovely, funny uncle. When do we morph into uncaring, spiteful beings? Now he’s been told he has type 2 diabetes. It’s bleak, but hopefully with the support of a few who do care, he’ll get there.

Name and address supplied

Laurels to our libraries

Thank you for your item on Cheltenham public library (“The view from … Cheltenham“, Comment). I was a reader of Gloucestershire’s library books from 1955 till 2010 and benefited from the excellent facilities. For the last 40 of those years I lived in a small village served by the mobile library based at Moreton-in-Marsh. The van came for 20 minutes once a fortnight. I could order books I knew I wanted and keep them six weeks. We had a bus to Cheltenham once a fortnight giving us just over two hours there. I could choose from a wider range there and bring home a book which could be returned at the van.

I occasionally visited the libraries at Cirencester, Stow and Bourton-on-the-Water, all excellent. Many thanks to all you Gloucestershire librarians.

Elisabeth Rowlands

Exeter

Required reading, Mr Peston

As ever, the summer reads in the New Review was informative and instructive. Most amusing, however, was the BBC’s economics editor Robert Peston vowing he will not be taking Thomas Piketty’s Capital In The Twenty-First Century with him because it has been spoiled by all the blooming polemics he has read about it. I’d have thought that he would have made it part of his job before now to read a book which has caused so much media debate. Or perhaps that’s just a naive belief.

Jon Myles

London

The glory of the Ramones

The Ramones did not play their guitars “badly” (“End of a punk era as Tommy, last original Ramone, dies at 62“, News). They cut out all the self-indulgent widdling and stripped everything down to glorious adrenalin-rush basics. That’s what made them great.

Graham Larkbey

Independent:

Zoë Harcombe states that the obesity epidemic started when we followed the “wrong” kind of dietary advice (“Gastric bands are as useful as a plaster on a severed artery”, 13 July). I think the simpler explanation is that more food is being processed, and more food is being offered where previously it wasn’t.

Councils and local authorities have allowed a proliferation of fast-food outlets, often within yards of each other. There used to be planning laws which stated that similar trades could not operate in close proximity, these have been so relaxed that there are often six or seven outlets within the same block, many remaining open all day capitalising on the after-school trade. Cinemas sell popcorn in buckets and sugary drinks by the litre. Most hospitals are replete with vending machines that offer nothing other than unhealthy snacks and drinks, often to patients who are there because of their intake of such.

There’ll be no change from the food manufacturers, the Government is too weak to enforce that and councils will keep allowing fast-food outlets, they want the business rates. But there can be very little sympathy for the NHS “struggling” with the increasing “obesity epidemic” when it’s contributing to it.

Geoff Hulme

Altrincham, Cheshire

Joan Smith’s rant about Harriet Harman’s failure to become deputy prime minister seems to assume women have the right to promotion simply because they are female (13 July). Harman claims victim status which is something we can all do. I would like to welcome you to the world of the single, white, middle-aged male where I get used as a cash cow to pay taxes for all the supposed hard-working families while getting very little in the way of benefits. Women still get their pensions earlier than men. Is Smith complaining about that? Are any women refusing to accept it early in solidarity with men?

Rob Edwards

Harrogate, Yorkshire

John Rentoul (13 July) thinks voters “will shy away from Miliband”. But people cast their ballot for the party rather than its leader, and those who’ve suffered from the Coalition’s austerity programme will want to see Cameron ousted. Rentoul says Neil Kinnock’s unpopularity in 1992 led to Labour’s defeat, but I recall Edward Heath beating Harold Wilson in 1970 and Margaret Thatcher defeating James Callaghan in 1979. Both times the outgoing prime ministers were more popular than their successors. Personality isn’t everything.

Tim Mickleburgh

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

John Rentoul obviously thinks Miliband losing would be a good thing. I’m not sure who he envisages forming the next government, but if it is the likes of Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt and Chris Grayling, I can see why he keeps quiet.

Keith Flett

London N17

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TIPP) could give authorities the right to sue governments over laws designed to protect workers and the environment (“Protesters fear trade deal will ‘carve open’ health service” 13 July). An understanding of how this deal could violate human rights led the public out en-masse last weekend in opposition to the treaty.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb

Green Party Group, London Assembly

Times:

A funeral procession A funeral procession

Support the church or risk losing the comfort it offers

THANKS are owed to Camilla Cavendishfor her willingness to share her grief after her mother’s death (“I can’t see God but since my mother’s death I can see the value of his house”, Comment, last week).

Our sense of loss does diminish with time but never leaves us entirely. After more than 45 years in the Anglican ministry — part in London, part in Canada — I have shared the sense of loss of many families.

I am glad that Cavendish, like so many others, has found the fact that the church is there for her is some help and consolation. The problem, very sadly, as she discerns from her quotation from Philip Larkin’s verse, is that the church will continue to be available to those who find they want it when they need it only if enough people support it.
Oliver Osmond, Nova Scotia, Canada

Reasonable doubt
Cavendish was brave to express her agnostic doubts. Her quote from the atheist philosopher AC Grayling about his “sense of yearning for the absolute” reminded me of the words found on the desk of his illustrious atheist predecessor Bertrand Russell after his death: “The centre of me is always and eternally a terrible pain — a curious, wild pain — a searching for something transfigured and infinite. The beatific vision — God. I do not find it. I do not think it is to be found — but the love of it is my life.”

Maybe St Augustine was right: “Our hearts were made for You… and are restless till they find their rest in you.”
Peter Anderson, Grasse, France

Divine inspiration
I am a Roman Catholic priest in the suburbs of Chicago. Cavendish’s experience in the church is what I hope I offer to my people. I am going to quote the article extensively in my weekly column of our parish bulletin.
Charles Niblick, Dyer, Indiana, USA

Religious goals
The article was a great encouragement to me. In my role of placing chaplains into professional sport, I often come up against the “We don’t do religion in sport” line — and this against the backdrop of the Professional Footballers’ Association, Premier League, and managers and the players asking us for their support.

Everyone experiences the rollercoaster of life whatever their profession and we are there to be a comfort and listening ear. It seems that while many lobby to eradicate religion from society, more and more are finding refuge in it.
Richard Gamble, Sports Chaplaincy UK

Finding consolation
I have a terminal cancer and I hope my beloved daughter can find a measure of comfort such as Cavendish has, however infinitesimal, when my time comes.
Maureen Jeffs, Nottingham

Speaking out on assisted dying laws

BRAVO to Lord Carey for turning round the traditional Christian standpoint and supporting assisted dying (“The rights and wrongs of assisted dying”, Editorial, and “Church asks Lord Falconer to withdraw Assisted Dying Bill”, News, last week). All human and social developments, from IVF to the benefits system, have potential for abuse. This is no reason to shy away from a change whose time has come — build in safeguards and manage the risks.
Sheila Edwards, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire

Fatal decisions
While it may become legal to kill some terminally ill patients, limited thought has been spent on those who would have to prescribe and administer the fatal potions. Selecting staff would not be straightforward. Setting aside those with ethical restrictions, who would be chosen and by whom?
Dr Roger Gabriel, Consultant Physician, Chichester

Death wish
I am nearly 86. I have painful sciatica and other problems but can use my computer, talk reasonably intelligently, do the shopping and take my dog out for short walks. When I deteriorate to a medically incurable and abysmal quality of life (albeit not necessarily terminal), why should I be forced to stay alive because I can’t commit suicide on my own? Some people have religions that require the acceptance of these agonies of body and mind — I don’t, so let me die in peace.

I fully accept there will be a legal and medical requirement to register my wishes while I am still mentally competent. But this should be at any stage, not just when a person is deemed to have six months to live. What proportion of people are still mentally competent at that point?
Rodney Seeley, Beckenham, London

Die hard

Chris Woodhead’s article “Please help me to let go” (News Review, last week) was very moving. He says he still likes his wine and food. Felix Dennis, the media magnate who died last month aged 67, went further in his verse: “They tell me I’m riddled with cancer/ So I’m planning to croak with elan / If you’ll pass the cigars and decanter / I’ll be dying as hard as I can.” Gerry Davey, Loughton, Essex

Nil by mouth
Woodhead stated that one opponent of the proposed bill held that a person could refuse sustenance and so die. Two members of my family separately have done just that — a very brave thing to do, but very stressful for others.
Mike Whitby, Llandovery, Carmarthenshire

Three cheers for Gove, the great reformer

MANY column inches have been afforded to teachers celebrating the departure of Michael Gove as secretary of state for education, but we as head teachers, teachers and educationalists think it vital that we also mark his achievements and thank him for the difference he has made for some of the most disadvantaged children.

Politics aside, Gove is a man of great conviction. In education that conviction has always been to ensure that where you are born doesn’t have to determine where you end up. Gove witnessed the power of a great education first hand and has used his tenure to champion opportunities for children and families who too often have little choice.

His achievements range from laying the foundations for the first free state boarding school for children from the inner city and giving great teachers more opportunity than ever before to turn around failing schools in the poorest parts of the country to allowing great head teachers to set up new schools in disadvantaged areas to ensure that more children can benefit from outstanding teaching. These are all important and brave strides forwards that should not be overlooked.

Gove’s passion to level the playing field has been unwavering, but we will see the impact of much of his work only in years to come as children benefit from a more rigorous examination system, a more competitive teaching profession and a narrowing of the gap between children in the richest and poorest boroughs.

Change breeds controversy, and while we don’t all agree with every policy or priority, we do believe that, in time, history will remember him alongside Lord Adonis and Lord Baker as a great reformer in education. We warmly welcome Nicky Morgan into office and hope she will continue with the zeal, determination and passion of her predecessor.
Sir Greg Martin, Durand Academy; Professor Julian Le Grand, LSE; Dame Joan McVitti, Woodside High and former president of the Association of School and College Leaders; Sir David Carter, Cabot Learning Foundation; Sir Dan Moynihan, Harris Federation; Victoria Beer CBE, Ashton on Mersey School; David Hampson OBE, Tollbar Academies; Joan Deslandes, Kingsford Community School; Amanda Phillips, Old Ford and Culloden Primary Academies; Pamela Wright OBE, Wade Deacon High School; Professor Alison Wolf, King’s College London; Dame Sally Coates, Burlington Danes Academy; Patricia Sowter CBE, Cuckoo Hall Academies Trust; Anthony Seldon, Wellington College and Wellington Academy; Jane Simons, Berkhamsted School; Judette Tapper CBE, The Platanos Trust; Liam Nolan, Jackie Powell, Russell Bond and Darren Foreman, Perry Beeches Academy Trust; Dame Rachel de Souza, Inspiration Trust; Adrian Ball, Thetford Academy; Dr Chris Tomlinson, Harris Federation; Paul Smith, Parbold Douglas CE Academy Trust; Alison Edmonds, Woodpecker Hall Primary Academy; Richard Cairns, Brighton College and London Academy of Excellence; Sharon Ahmet, Cuckoo Hall Primary Academy; Matthew Laban, Kingfisher Hall Primary Academy; Lord Ralph Lucas, Good Schools Guide; Barnaby Lennon, London Academy of Excellence; Mike Griffiths, The Samworth Church Academy; Jane Bass, Powers Hall Academy and Connected Learning MAT; John Townsley, The Gorse Academies Trust; Kris Boulton, King Solomon Academy; James Easy, ARK Academy Primary; Mary Elcock, Heron Hall Secondary Academy; Sarah Counter, Canary Wharf College; Tom Clark CBE, formerly George Spencer Academy; Dame Helen Hyde, Watford Girl’s Grammar School; Martin Latham, The Robinswood Academy Trust; Dame Susan John, Lampton School; Marc Jordan, Creative Education Academies; Maura Regan, Carmel College; Hamid Patel, Tauheedul Education Trust; Charles Rigby, Challenger Trust; Toby Young, Hywel Jones & Robert Peal, West London Free School; James O’Shaughnessy & Briar Lipson, Floreat Education; Tim Knox, Centre for Policy Studies; Katharine Birbalsingh, Barry Smith, Jonathan Porter, Katie Ashford, Joe Kirby, Michaela Community School; Dennis Sewell and Ben Thompson, Trinity Academy; Jo Glen, Dolphin School; Sir Andrew Carter, South Farnham School; Mark Goodchild, Challenge Partners; Karen Walsh, Cedar Mount Academy; Alison Colwell, The Ebbsfleet Academy; Dame Dana Ross-Wawrzynski, Gary Handforth, Elizabeth Allen CBE, Bright Futures Educational Trust; Professor Anthony O’Hear, University of Buckingham; Jennifer Bexon-Smith, Tudor Grange Multi-Academy Trust; Mark Lehain, Bedford Free School; John Tomasevic, Torch Academy Gateway Trust; Alan Davies, Great Sankey High School; Kate Dethridge, Churchend Primary; John Mcintosh, former head of the London Oratory

Upfront solution to health tourist payments

SO HEALTH tourists will pay a 50% supplement if they can be traced and if the relevant NHS trust can be bothered to chase up the bill (“This will hurt a bit: health tourists face 150% bill for treatment”, News, last week). When I had private treatment, the hospital rang me the day before and I gave my credit card details. How simple is that as a way of collecting due monies?
Peter Doolan, Watton-at-Stone, Hertfordshire

Spelling it out
Rod Liddle (“Drop the staple gun, Doc, and tell Fatty to grow some willpower”, Comment, last week) would have welcomed the advice of my GP in a local practice with every modern computerised aid, but still blessedly traditional in its approach. When told I should lose weight, I asked what diet she recommended. She replied: “I’ll spell it for you in capital letters. Pen handy? E. A. T. New word. L. E. S. S.”
Francis Hitching, Oxford


No belly laughs
I have some self-control: I managed to stop smoking 30 years ago, although it creased me to do so, and I understand how some may continue to fight their addiction. Having battled obesity all my adult life, I grasp the weight-food-exercise equation and have never been a net drain on the health service. Liddle’s attempt at humour is offensive.
Joe Barnes, Doncaster

Points

Radical action

Frequently British soldiers returning from active service are described in the media as traumatised. Just as frequently young British civilians returning from combat in Syria and elsewhere without prior military experience or training are described as battle-hardened fighters. Should we be recruiting them?
Lieutenant-Colonel Ian Palmer (Retired) Former Tri-Service Professor of Military Psychiatry, Whitstable, Kent

Rural planning

I am delighted that the ministerial duo of Eric Pickles and Nick Boles have “revalued heritage within the planning system for decades to come” by saving Smithfield from partial destruction and redevelopment motivated “by greed” (“Kapow! A blow to butchering developers that will resonate for years”, Comment, last week). If only they would have the same understanding and respect for the British countryside.
Rachael Webb, Dunton, Buckinghamshire

Hot under the collar

An RSPCA welfare expert (“Dangerous game”, Letters, last week) advises on good and bad games to play with your dog on the beach. What are these animals doing there in the first place? In Bude, Cornwall, our walks by the sea in the off season are spoilt by free-ranging dogs, and even in summer some owners think the “dogs on leads” rule doesn’t apply to them. As one bitten by a dog in January and still in some pain, I say keep them off our beaches. Dave Wright, Holsworthy, Devon

Lost ball

I’m an Englishman with a Welsh surname, so quite what the Scots decide to do in their referendum is not going to make a great difference to my life. However, have they realised that a “yes” vote would make them no longer British, and therefore not eligible to host the British Open golf championship? Perhaps a small loss to their economy and prestige.
Neville Lloyd, Portishead, Somerset

Corrections and clarifications

Hans-Olav Eldring

A recent report (“Sacked Credit Suisse banker helped drug lord move cash”, Business, June 22) stated that Hans-Olav Eldring had been sacked by Credit Suisse and that he had admitted helping a client of his former employer, who happened to be a drug dealer, move cash to Switzerland. We now understand, and accept, that Mr Eldring was not sacked by Credit Suisse, but resigned, and that he had no knowledge of the drug dealer’s criminal background when he unwittingly assisted him. We apologise for the distress and embarrassment caused.

Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to editor@sunday-times.co.uk or The Editor, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST. In addition, the Press Complaints Commission (complaints@pcc.org.uk or 020 7831 0022) examines formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites)

Birthdays

Anton du Beke, dancer,48; Gisele Bündchen, model, 34; Paul Cook, drummer, 58; Jacques Delors, former president of the European Commission, 89; Roger Hunt, member of England’s 1966 World Cup football team, 76; Dame Diana Rigg, actress, 76; Julian Rhind-Tutt, actor, 46; Carlos Santana, guitarist, 67

Anniversaries

1944 Adolf Hitler survives bomb plot; 1960 Ceylon chooses world’s first female prime minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike; 1969 Neil Armstrong becomes first person to walk on the moon; 1974 Turkish forces invade Cyprus; 1982 11 soldiers and seven horses killed by two IRA bombs in Hyde Park and Regent’s Park

Telegraph:

SIR – You report that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has issued new guidance recommending statins for a wider group of patients with a lower risk of heart disease.

We therefore urge doctors to offer patients the option of taking a statin. Debates like this must genuinely involve patients. Individual patients may themselves opt not to use statins, but doctors may not do this on their behalf – that is old-fashioned paternalism.

Instead, patients should be given the information necessary to participate in shared decision-making – this is the essence of modern medical practice and the patient-centred medicine that is being taught to medical students.

Professor Mayur Lakhani
Past Chairman, Royal College of GPs
Dr Patricia Wilkie
President and Chairman, National Association for Patient Participation
Professor Richard Baker
University of Leicester
Dr Mike Knapton
Associate Medical Director, British Heart Foundation

Cornish, not English

SIR – Fears that the England team may be booed by the Scots at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games are a sad reflection on the referendum hostility fuelled by some nationalists. The games should and must be friendly.

However, if England were to appear in Truro, they would be booed not for being English but because the Cornish, despite recognition of us as a nationality, are forced to masquerade as English in these games. The England team T-shirt, “We are England”, is selling well in Cornwall, where an extra word “Not” is added, to make our point.

Tim James
Penzance, Cornwall

Our number’s up

SIR – Most landline numbers in Britain are 11 digits. Mine and a significant minority in other regions have 10 digits.

I frequently encounter problems with systems (online and by phone) failing to accept 10-digit numbers. My bank has been “playing” with its systems, and now it doesn’t recognise my phone number – because it has 10 digits. issue.

It’s time that this matter was resolved by our telephone industry.

Stephen Gledhill
Evesham, Worcestershire

Secret voting

SIR – Lord Kilclooney deplores secret voting in the European Parliament as rendering MEPs unaccountable to those who vote for them.

He should direct his concern nearer home.

South Cambridgeshire District Council voted until recently by show of hands. Now, however, the councillors press a button beneath their expensive new desks.

Colin Kolbert
Girton, Cambridgeshire

Thames airport

SIR – What has happened to our nation’s self-confidence? Has it been misplaced, lost forever, or did the Victorians use it all up? The construction of a new airport in the Thames estuary is a no-brainer. Is there not a single politician with the vision to support the sustainable future of the South East? Apart from Boris Johnson, of course.

Ian McCutcheon
Burton in Kendal, Westmorland

Name of the father

SIR – James Logan called his father Atna (“All talk, no action”). My kids call me Daddle (“Dad’ll do it”).

Alastair Pringle
Benenden, Kent

Turning the tables

SIR – Maggi Davis asks for uses of the 12-times table. Prior to decimalisation, it was recognised that many industries, such as construction and engineering, would need to run parallel systems of measurement – imperial and metric – well into this century because of the expected life-span of many products.

For my part, being on a strict diet, I sometimes wish that they had included the 14-times table in school, as I struggle in converting my weight to stones and pounds for comparison purposes.

Peter Cornish
Gainsborough, Lincolnshire

SIR – There must be dozens of reasons why knowing the 12-times table is useful.

Duncan Wang
Arlesey, Bedfordshire

SIR – Apart from its relative ease of learning, what are the everyday uses of the 11-times table?

Hilary Stone
Epsom, Surrey

Birds in their nests agree on the uses of twinery

SIR – I had the same problem as Gavin Inglis: sparrows untied the fastenings on my runner-bean supports when collecting material for their nests.

The answer is to use nylon twine in place of the natural jute type. Either it is too tough, or they just do not like it.

Richard Matkin
Rolleston-on-Dove, Staffordshire

SIR – On my allotment, sparrows help themselves to the twine I use to tie my runner-bean canes together. But I don’t bear them a grudge: on finding one chap caught up in the netting over my brassicas, I spent quite some time cutting him out, thus enabling him to raid my garden again.

Colin Brown
Castor, Northamptonshire

SIR – Sparrows have pinched so many bits from the lining of my hanging basket that the bare minimum remains to contain the compost. Then they teach their young to “bath” in the dry soil of the flower beds, throwing it all over the path.

Still, I enjoy having them visit the garden, so continue to feed them.

Sheila Weary
Evesham, Worcestershire

SIR – A squirrel has stripped our garden of twine. We have captured her on film, which shows her tearing twine off the plants, then chewing it up, stuffing it into her mouth and rushing off to continue building.

Doug Whittaker
Upminster, Essex

SIR – Sparrows are just another hurdle in growing runner beans. Slugs can’t resist the newly planted seeds. Then wood pigeons peck out the tender new shoots. The growing plants provide sap for endless colonies of aphids. But the tender beans always make it all worthwhile.

Keith Hill

SIR – I was the first female caddy on the Old Course and was a married student at St Andrews in the early Seventies.

I would like to give Louise Richardson, the current principal of the university, my full support in her fight for membership of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club.

The R&A caddy master when I worked there was unwilling to allow me equal rights with the male caddies. Because I prioritised money over feminism, I quietly suffered the malevolent glances of the caddy master and earned as much as a bar girl.

I am sure the R&A employs many female staff today and would find women members a true asset in the future. If not, I would suggest a renaming: “Curmudgeonly and Dated” seems apt.

Rosanne Walmsley
Newtown, Hampshire

SIR – Relatives and friends will ask: did those aboard flight MH17 suffer? Following the Lockerbie disaster of 1988, in which my daughter Flora was among those murdered, we learnt that the answer was that loss of consciousness would be virtually instantaneous, from the moment that the fuselage depressurised.

When we commit ourselves to sit in a thinly clad metal fuselage travelling at about 500mph, some six miles above the earth, survival depends absolutely upon maintenance of a calm air pressure not too much different from that at sea level.

When the fuselage is suddenly disrupted, the instantaneous reduction of air pressure results in immediate loss of consciousness.

The bomb that destroyed the Lockerbie aircraft in 1988 held less than a pound of explosive. If it is confirmed that MH17 was hit by a Soviet-built Buk missile, the warhead would contain an explosive charge 140 times greater, adding to the certainty of immediate unconsciousness.

Some relatives will want to see the bodies of their loved ones, some will not. They should be given the choice, but in the knowledge that many bodies will be dismembered, and that any recognisably retrieved will show the bloated features of rapid depressurisation. In addition, a forensic examination will probably be required, and to perform this on so many victims will require remains to be preserved; so even a lock of hair is likely to be pungent with preservative.

Later will come the allegations and recriminations. Why did Malaysia Airlines overfly an area of conflict when some other airlines avoided it? Who provided the rocket, assuming it was hit by one? Who had the skills to organise the radar painting of the target? Who pressed the button?

There is no answer to the question: “Why did it have to be the aircraft with my loved ones aboard that was destroyed?” It is poignant for us Lockerbie relatives that the Dutch, who showed us so much kindness during the Lockerbie trial of two Libyans in 2000 near Utrecht, should now be so heavily wounded by this dreadful event.

An unusual feature after Lockerbie was the absence of credible claims of responsibility. This left the field open to the chicanery of international politics seeking to apportion blame. Relatives of MH17 victims should be cautious in assessing where guilt lies, for governments can massage apparent facts in ways which families may be unable to unravel.

The long-term consequences for relatives will cascade down the decades. It will be wise to seek professional help for post-traumatic stress disorder, and relationship and financial repercussions..

There is a small British charity called Disaster Action which, although not equipped to deal with the acute phase of an international disaster of this magnitude, does seek to support those affected, and draws on the experience of many such victims’ relatives.

Dr Jim Swire
Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire

SIR – Russia is being reviled across the world, accused of supplying the missile system responsible for the deaths of 298 passengers and crew on flight MH17.

In Moscow, meanwhile, preparations continue for the 2018 World Cup. I have no doubt this will take place, and that Fifa will rake in yet more billions. The slaughter of the innocent will quickly be forgotten, for such is the world we now inhabit.

Simon Baumgartner
Hampton, Middlesex

SIR – The horrific events of recent days are a reminder of how little the world has changed over the centuries. Wars continue to rage all over the world and now innocent people are slaughtered by weapons fired by an adversary many miles away. “Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn,” wrote Robert Burns in the 18th century. The difference now is the huge increase in the number who mourn.

George Wilkie
Hemingford Grey, Huntingdonshire

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Madam – Friends I made in London while working there told me they were coming to Dublin on holiday during in the World Cup and wished to experience the atmosphere in one of Dublin’s  pubs while watching England playing.

 Before my friends’ arrival I decided to sample the attitude of the patrons in a number of pubs to see how many, like President Higgins and my humble self, were supporting England in the World Cup.

I knew many Irish would support any team but England. However,  I was not prepared for my  experience in the first pub I visited.  When Italy scored their first goal everyone in the pub, including members of staff, erupted into loud cheering.  When England equalised I was  the only one to applaud.    This clearly  was not a pub to host  my English friends during their visit.

At  half time I headed off down road and found another pub that looked good – it had a sign indicating that “neat dress” was essential. But once inside I realised that keeping a civil tongue in one’s head was not essential. The air was blue with the kind of language that would make Mrs Brown and her boys blush. The owner also seemed to think that patrons required loud background music even during football matches.

Finally  I found a pleasant haven for my English tourist friends, a pub where attitudes and behaviour appeared more acceptable and some customers even cheered for England.

There is a widespread  presumption that all tourists will automatically enjoy our pub culture without question. But from some of my excursions I can tell that many of our visitors are irritated by some our habits. Chief among them is the almost continuous – and loud – foul language. And I can tell you they are not amused by the high prices of drinks,  both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, either.

Could there be any connection between the apparent rise in anti-English sentiment and the rise of Sinn Fein?

Tony Moriarty,

Harold’s Cross,

Dublin 6w

Some way to go to being proud

Madam -

Throughout the civilised world Irish people are considered kind just and considerate and in most cases they are entitled to be thought of in that way. In the past few months or years however many scandals of abuse have come to light. All of these scandals were well known to have happened by people in authority but unless they were forced to speak out they stayed silent.

There was the Magdaline Laundry abuse, the priests who abused so many and were allowed to stay within the Church, the unfortunate women who suffered at the hands of those who performed symphysiotomy on mothers trying to give birth to their children. But none of these atrocities could have happened without the State being aware of them.

Today surely we are all similarly aware of the terrible situation of the homeless, the drug addicted, the people living in poverty, the youth of our country forced to emigrate or to take a job at €50 a week plus social welfare.

Seven years ago the State saw it necessary to enact a law overnight to secure the repayment to bondholders to the tune of some €60 to 80 billion. Surely the vulnerable are entitled to the same kind of help, or is the law different when it comes to the poor.

Should we not demand that there be proper facilities provided for the sick, that is all the sick whether caused by drugs or otherwise? Should we not be ashamed to see our own sleeping on the street?

Are we the laughing stock to the rest of the world for saving the Euro, but in the process, putting ourselves in penury, a situation likely to last for the foreseeable future?

Are our politicians not ashamed to see our people in the state that they are now living in? Try living on the minimum wages to achieve a better understanding.

When we have righted all the wrongs done to the poor and the sick, then, and only then, can we hold our heads up and say Yes, we are proud to be Irish.

Fred Molloy

Clonsilla,

Dublin 15

Coalition’s policies are “immoral”

Madam – Re last week’s letter “How others live” (Sunday Independent, 13 July, 2014), my Civil Service pension is €13,309 gross per annum, a cost neutral pension accepted in 2005 due to personal circumstances.

Since 2008 not only has there been no increase but I have been subjected to a Pension reduction of 1.3pc together with USC charge of 4.95pc .

With VHI of 21pc I have a take home pay of €184 per week. Even “dole” recipients get more than this and yet I am, as a civil servant, excluded from all benefits available to welfare claimants and the low paid.

After 35 years service I am to live on €184 per week. Destitute does not even begin to describe my circumstances. I am devastated and sickened beyond words.

The imposition of these taxes may have been warranted but government’s retention of these taxes on a miniscule income is an amoral act by every member of government. And in conclusion, though I of course include it, please do not print my name and address. I am humiliated enough as it is.

(Name and address with Editor)

Help available for distressed Mamils

Madam- I am writing regarding Shane Doran’s article “Confession of a Mamil”. I have to take issue with this piece which ridicules the beneficial sporting pursuits being taken up by middle aged men. I am one of those seemly offensive men enjoying cycling. I have now moved on to become one of those lycra loving triathletes.

The article highlights a very negative experience a journalist endured after borrowing a carbon fibre bike and hitting the road with no preparation. Perhaps a journalist could be sent to interview a cardioligist or bariatric surgeon to highlight the beneficial gains obtained by exercising in your middle age.

There was no mention of the Mawil (Middle aged women in lycra). Personally I would like to congratulate all those brilliant ladies who have turned to running, cycling and triathalon in their droves.

Regarding injuries, many clubs now set up training programmes suited to all levels. Most people are sensible enough to take a gradual increase in performance avoiding the physio.

To end, a big hello to all those fantastic people who have got off the sofa and enjoy the thrill of exercise at any age. My vote is for more closed off cycle ways and funding for triathalon.

No offence intended towards the journalist who wrote the entertaining article. I realise it was written in a light hearted way .

Paul Parker

Lough Key Triathalon Club,

Roscommon

Fair air play for Irish musicians

Madam- Well done to Johnny Duhan for his piece on airplay procedures and practices in Irish radio. As someone who is about to release an independently financed album, I’d like to think I would earn some small reasonable amount of royalties for what airplay I garner. It would help offset my costs and further develop my musical productions and hopefully evolve into a small business enterprise for me.

If singer/songwriters of Mr. Duhan’s proven calibre are having difficulty getting airplay royalties, what chance does an unknown entity like myself stand?

If radio stations use our music and do not pay, is this not akin to theft ?

I have spent time joining IMRO, obtaining ISRC codes and getting an album together over many long hours of labour, only to find that I may not even be paid the due royalties if I manage to get a bit of airplay, because of a poor and under-developed sampling system.

My belief is that the computer technology, software and hardware are out there to facilitate a 100pc reporting of airplay listings to IMRO, but radio stations resist the change because they see it as an increased financial burden on their businesses.

What of the financial burdens of the creative artist ? The recording of airplay listings and submissions of same is not as manually labour intensive an operation as in the past and surely if ISRC codes are used, automatic logging should occur in the majority of cases and should guarantee a royalty payment. Have we not a Broadcasting Authority of Ireland to oversee and regulate here also? These are some of the questions that I would like answered. If we do not value our music and artists, and stand up for fair pay for air play, then society, and the economy as a whole lose out and the native Irish music Industry suffers. If the seedlings in the nursery are not tended and fed, then the crop yield of future musical talent will not flourish.

Jerome Taheny

Co Sligo

Trusting SF to break its promises

Madam – At election time, the question usually is, “Can political parties be trusted to keep their promises?” However, in the case of Sinn Fein, the question should be; “Can Sinn Fein be trusted to break its promises”? As it is, Sinn Fein promises on public sector pay will lead to a brain drain of the most talented from the Civil Service. Its promises on taxation will frighten off both foreign and domestic investment.

Of course if we can trust Sinn Fein to break their promises, then maybe everything will be fine. Dorcha Lee,

Navan

Reshuffle was just window dressing

Madam – Having read the lead story on the front page of your paper (Sunday Independent, 13 July 2014) I could not help but notice that all the members of the Labour Party were interested in was who was going to get what portfolio in the re-shuffle and who was going to get the position of junior minister.

There was no mention by any of them about serving the people the party was established to represent. The so-called strained relationship between the new leader of the Labour Party and the leader of Fine Gael is only window dressing, to create the impression that the Labour Party under Joan Burton is now going to be somewhat radical. However, one has only to remember that this new leader was a part of the old guard, which helped to implement the austerity measures now in place. Joan Burton is also on record as saying that she would continue to support the programme for government.

This party can no longer claim to represent those it was founded to fight for.

Dr Tadhg Moloney,

Gouldavoher,

Limerick

We feel good but don’t get results

Madam- Congratulations to Patrick Fleming for his letter on letters to the editor being chosen as the “Letter of the Week.”

I do not expect this letter to be given such an honour nor do I expect that it will be published. Why? National newspaper in this country will not print letters of substance or letters that require the mass media to be held accountable. (Space does not allow me to support these two premises but if asked to do so by the editor I will gladly do so.)

Ninty-nine per cent of the letters to editors are “feel good expressions” of the writer without the expectation that there will be any follow-up or change resulting in society. Seldom do editors allow on-going discussion between letter writers and those in positions of power and influence. In short – letter writing to editors of newspapers in this country can best be described as a feel good moment without any result.

Vincent J. Lavery,

Irish Free Speech Movement,

Dalkey,

Co Dublin

We must adapt to our circumstances

Madam – Reporting and analysis of economic matters by Irish media is determined to give only one view of a very altered economic situation. In a century that is defined by the excellence and genius of technology there has never been the slightest attempt to examine the effect of such technology .The reality of an entirely changed situation of goods/service supply and dependence on human labour is never mentioned and events which raise questions on these vital matters conveniently ignored and repressed.

Last week the UK price index showed one of the greatest annual price index reductions ever recorded. This may appear good but it’s it an alarming wake-up call of what is happening in the business markets of the world. There is such a glut and oversupply of goods and services that competition is cut-throat and profits reduced and eliminated like never before. Business is failing on all sides and can only lead to monstrous monopolisation unless oversupply is managed and restrained. Yet the call from political and economic journalistic circles is a return to “growth”; increasing further the flood of goods and services that feed madcap promotions, constant sales and tantalizing special offers which increase weekly the percentage of the shopping trolley going into landfill.

In matters of work and employment the lack of balanced reporting and comment is even more deplorable. Automation, which is truly awesome and improving, is never mentioned in the struggle to provide jobs. Indeed policies lauded and encouraged by the media are utterly counterproductive and detrimental towards providing employment into the future. Working harder, longer and towards later retirement only ensures that greater numbers will never work at all.

Economic success is gauged by the ease and reduced interest at which we conduct “bond” sales; in other words borrow. There is no other ambition and our Government has been extremely successful. We are welcome clients at the “bond market” counters having proved conclusively there is no austerity or hardship we will not inflict on the Irish people to repay the conversion of defaulted private borrowing to public long term debt. Recent revelations on troubled Portuguese Banking reveal just how fragile supposed “recovery” is and how easily the whole absurd edifice could crumble.

These are dreadful times for many. But in reality we live in the best economic times that ever existed. Apart from extraordinarily enhanced living conditions we can produce everything the world needs and desires in great abundance.

But we are turning this almost Utopian situation into a nightmare. Practically all our misfortunes are self- inflicted and can be traced back to our inability to deal with the success of technology. A world of abundance, sufficiency and automation can not be administered by an ideology of shortage, growth and work. We must adapt to extraordinary and wonderful economic change wrought by the genius of technology. We have no hope of doing so as long as media exercises a stranglehold of censorship on considering and discussing the enormous and benign impact of modern technology on the economic situation in the 21st century.

Padraic Neary,

Co Sligo

Rain

July 19, 2014

19July2014 Rain

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. A damp day

ScrabbleMarywins, but gets under 400. perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.

Obituary:

Mavis Whyte – obituary

Mavis Whyte was a forces sweetheart known as the ‘Tiddley Winkie Girl’ who entertained troops in North Africa and Italy

Mavis Whyte

Mavis Whyte

5:38PM BST 18 Jul 2014

CommentsComments

Mavis Whyte, the variety entertainer, who has died aged 92, won the hearts of wartime servicemen as the “Tiddley-Winkie Girl” with her rendition of the frothy and catchy novelty song Tiddley-Winkie Woo.

Morton Morrow’s simple tune and lyrics (which now frequently feature on compilations of the sort parents use to lull their babies to sleep) were almost impossible to forget — even after one hearing — and therefore became immensely popular: “Tiddley, Winkie, Winkie, Winkie, Tiddley Winkie Woo/ I love you./Tiddley, Winkie, Winkie, Winkie, Tiddley Winkie Woo/ I love you./I love you in the morning,/ And I love you in the night./I love you in the evening,/When the stars are shining bright./ So Tiddley, Winkie, Winkie, Winkie, Tiddley Winkie Woo/ I love you.”

Mavis Whyte, the Tiddley Winkie Girl

Mavis Whyte took her signature song on tour with Ensa (the Entertainments National Service Association) in 1944, as part of a comedy variety act in which she gave song and dance impressions of Shirley Temple, Jessie Matthews, Marlene Dietrich and Gracie Fields, and performed alongside American stars such as Mae West (“Look me over boys, but don’t try to reform me,” she recalled the sultry actress telling her audiences).

After travelling to North Africa in a troop ship, Mavis followed the Eighth Army to Sicily and up through Italy. “The troops were very glad,” she recalled . “I think the thing was that we were people from home. We had come out especially for them, and it was important… they would say ‘Hey Tiddley Winkie, here Tiddley Winkie! Where have you come from?’ and all that. Then, when we moved to entertain the Americans it was the same.

“People have wanted laughter,” she went on. “That’s why they sent shows abroad to help the troops to recover. You have got to have laughter to complement the tragedy in life.”

Mavis Whyte was born in Scotland on January 28 1922. Her mother was an entertainer, her father a captain in the Merchant Navy.

She first trod the boards in pantomime in Liverpool in the 1930s, where she met a young Ken Dodd, who was working part-time as a stage hand and with whom she became lifelong friends.

After the war she appeared in cabaret in the West End, where she met her husband, Bert Loman, a one-armed theatrical impresario and pantomime producer who, in the 1920s, had come to the rescue of George Formby at a time when the performer was thinking of becoming a car mechanic, and had put him into pantomime, from where he progressed into films.

Mavis Whyte and her husband moved in the 1950s to the Wirral where, from 1958 until 1972, she starred in Jackson Earle’s Melody Inn Revue, a popular variety show staged at the Floral Pavilion, New Brighton. There she appeared alongside stars such as Tommy Cooper, Frankie Howerd and Max Miller. In the winter months she toured as a leading lady in pantomime.

Mavis Whyte as Marie Louise

In the 1960s, with Jackson Earle’s wife, Peggy Naylor, she regularly brought the house down at the summer variety show with an act called “The Two Julies”, in which they played a couple of Liverpool “teenagers” in beehive hairdos and micro-skirts. “We came on stage on a scooter,“ she recalled, “and [I would] say ‘I used to be a nurse. I was a nurse in Birkenhead General and I was doing alright. There was this fella in bed and he said ‘Nurse’ he said ‘Give us a kiss’ and I said ‘No! I can’t.’ He says ‘Go on! Give us a kiss!’ and I says ‘No I can’t! I shouldn’t really be in the same bed as you!’”

Mavis Whyte would enjoy re-enacting their sketches in later life when she came out of retirement to raise thousands of pounds for research into blindness. Her own favourite was: “Actually this Vera, she wears all the latest fashions. I saw her walking down the street and she was wearing half a topless. Half a topless! This side was alright, but this side: Oh la la! I said ‘Eh, Vera what you walking down the street like that for?’ She looked down and said ‘Oh my God! I must have left the baby on the bus!’”

Mavis Whyte’s husband predeceased her, and after his death she launched a new character called “Marie Louise”, who introduced cabaret dancers in heavily accented English. There were no children of the marriage.

Mavis Whyte, born January 28 1922, died June 23 2014

Guardian:

Andrew Pulver, in his examination of why war films are so beloved of Hollywood (War!, G2, 18 July), misses the crucial factor. He quotes scriptwriter Cottrell Boyce: “We’re attracted to it because of its moral certainties.” That suggestion is naive and simplistic. Hollywood loves war films, especially ones about the second world war, because they portray a mighty and heroic US war machine that saved Europe and won the war. The decisive contribution made by the Soviet Union is written out of that history, as is the contribution of all other countries. War films help promote Pentagon policy and the idea that military action is the only way of defeating evil. In a recent New York Times article, economics professor Tyler Cowen argued that the blame for the present economic crisis is the fact that we haven’t had any big war nor a foreseeable one. “It is the persistence and expectation of peace,” he writes, that is the problem. During the 20th century and into this one, US economic growth has been fuelled by a massive armaments build up and a whole series of wars throughout the world. War is central to US economic survival and world dominance. That is the real reason Hollywood churns out its war movies.
Bruni de la Motte
Cnwch Coch, Ceredigion

Edward Snowden‘s call to professionals, including lawyers, to upgrade security following surveillance revelations (Edward Snowden urges professionals to encrypt client communications, 18 July) is a timely reminder of an issue the Law Society has been exploring for some years. We are already reviewing the ramifications of surveillance for lawyers. Legal privilege – the right to consult a legal adviser in confidence – is a prerequisite for justice. I will be writing to other professional bodies so we can discuss the impact spying is now having on our members’ confidential communication with clients or patients. I will also be writing to relevant academics, civil liberties groups, lawyers and other experts both nationally and internationally, to invite them to collaborate with us in addressing wider issues on surveillance and the rule of law.

It is difficult to overstate our concern about the possible effects of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers law that was rushed through parliament by the government this week. We need a public debate on striking the balance between security, freedom and privacy. We need to simplify and clarify a complex and confusing legal framework to ensure that it protects human rights. I will be leading a debate at the American Bar Association conference in Boston this August on this topic.
Andrew Caplen
President, Law Society

• UN high commissioner Navi Pillay should be applauded for saying that “those who disclose human rights violations should be protected: we need them”. However, if Snowden goes to trial in the US, the question of whether he legitimately disclosed human rights violations will not be considered, because US law does not recognise any sort of a public interest defence for the crimes for which Snowden is charged. The US is at odds here with democracies around the world, which increasingly recognise that whistleblowers who expose human rights violations should not be prosecuted, because the public interest outweighs possible harm to government interests. These points are codified in the Tshwane principles on national security and the right to information, which have achieved broad international endorsement. The US should not lag behind emerging international consensus on these crucial matters. US law needs to be changed.
Sandra Coliver
Senior legal officer, Open Society Justice Initiative, New York

• I can’t help thinking that a more honest and ethical foreign policy towards the Middle East would do more to enhance public security than all this ransacking of phone records and airport baggage.
Colin Baker
London

The overall loss of life in the Malaysia Airlines disaster (Report, 18 July) is the primary concern, but a separate issue is raised. Around 100 were scientists going to a conference in Australia. The number of conferences held worldwide is enormous, but is it not time to ask why such trips are necessary. The advent of large-screen TVs and rapid transmission of data and the spoken word mean it is no longer necessary to send thousands of people around the world at great expense often to the public purse (eg the universities) and at major environmental cost. People are already familiar with each other through Skype, telephone, email and the journals and, dare one say it, they are often an excuse to take the family on holiday. Now we have lost a very large number of people expert in the science of Aids. What cost will this be to those suffering from the disease?
Dr Simon Harris
Wrexham

• In the space of eight days, your film critic Peter Bradshaw has given five stars to one film lasting nearly three hours (Boyhood) and one with a running time of four hours (Norte, The End of History). A former leader of the Italian Communist party had the nickname Iron Bottom, from his ability to sit for endless hours in meetings of the comrades. Your critic should know that our bottoms are made of tenderer stuff.
Jeremy Bugler
Blakemere, Herefordshire

• It isn’t just in Brazil that the World Cup generates universal peace, love and harmony (Letters, 18 July). In 50 yards along our street there were two flags for England and one each for Algeria, Argentina, Cameroon, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria and Spain. Belief that football matters and loyalty to home-town team. Core British values on multicultural display.
Mary Pimm and Nik Wood
London

• Professor Maynard asks where the money will come from to pay for increased bariatric surgery (Letters, 15 July). It will come from the savings in diabetes treatment which takes up 10% of the NHS budget (and rising). Bariatric Surgery as a treatment for diabetics with a high BMI means n o more tablets, far fewer hospital visits, amputations and kidney transplants.
Dr David England
Liverpool

• So the new boss of Wonga is “reviewing how we go to market across the piste” (Report, 15 July)? Couldn’t have illustrated the gulf between lender and borrower much better, could he?
Hilary Fraser
Reading

Israel has once again unleashed the full force of its military against the captive Palestinian population, particularly in the besieged Gaza Strip, in an inhumane and illegal act of military aggression. Israel’s ability to launch such devastating attacks with impunity largely stems from the vast international military cooperation and trade that it maintains with complicit governments across the world. Over the period 2008-19, the US is set to provide military aid to Israel worth $30bn, while Israeli annual military exports to the world have reached billions of dollars.

In recent years, European countries have exported billions of euros’ worth of weapons to Israel, and the EU has furnished Israeli military companies with research grants worth hundreds of millions. Emerging economies such as India, Brazil and Chile are rapidly increasing their military trade and cooperation with Israel, despite their stated support for Palestinian rights. By importing and exporting arms to Israel and facilitating the development of Israeli military technology, governments are effectively sending a clear message of approval for Israel’s military aggression, including its war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

Israel’s military technology is marketed as “field-tested” and exported across the world. Military trade and joint military-related research relations with Israel embolden Israeli impunity in committing grave violations of international law and facilitate the entrenchment of Israel’s system of occupation, colonisation and systematic denial of Palestinian rights. We call on the UN and governments across the world to take immediate steps to implement a comprehensive and legally binding military embargo on Israel, similar to that imposed on South Africa during apartheid.
Adolfo Peres Esquivel Nobel Peace Laureate, Argentina, Ahdaf Soueif author, Egypt/UK, Aki Olavi Kaurismäki film director, Finland, Alice Walker writer, US, Archbishop Desmond Tutu Nobel Peace Laureate, South Africa, Betty Williams Nobel Peace Laureate, Ireland, Boots Riley rapper, poet, arts producer, US, Brian Eno musician, UK, Caryl Churchill playwright, UK, Chris Hedges journalist, Pullitzer Prize 2002, US, Cynthia McKinney politician, activist, US, David Palumbo-Liu academic, US, Etienne Balibar philosopher, France, Federico Mayor Zaragoza former Unesco  director general, Spain, Felim Egan painter, Ireland, Frei Betto liberation theologian, Brazil, Gillian Slovo writer, UK/South Africa, Githa Hariharan writer, India, Giulio Marcon MP (SEL), Italy, Hilary Rose academic, UK, Ilan Pappe historian, Israel, Ismail Coovadia former South African ambassador to Israel, James Kelman writer, Scotland, Janne Teller writer, Denmark, Jeremy Corbyn MP (Labour), UK, Joanna Rajkowska artist, Poland, Jody Williams Nobel Peace Laureate, US, John Berger artist, UK, John Dugard former ICJ judge, South Africa, John McDonnell MP (Labour), UK, John Pilger journalist and filmmaker, Australia, Judith Butler philosopher, US, Juliane House academic, Germany, Karma Nabulsi Oxford University, UK/Palestine, Ken Loach filmmaker, UK, Kool AD (Victor Vazquez) musician, US, Liz Lochhead national poet for Scotland, UK, Luisa Morgantini former vice president of the European Parliament, Italy, Mairead Maguire Nobel Peace Laureate, Ireland, Michael Mansfield barrister, UK, Michael Ondaatje author, Canada/Sri Lanka, Mike Leigh writer and director, UK, Naomi Wallace playwright, screenwriter, poet, US, Noam Chomsky academic, author, US, Nurit Peled academic, Israel, Prabhat Patnaik economist, India, Przemyslaw Wielgosz chief editor of Le Monde Diplomatique, Polish edition, Poland, Raja Shehadeh author and Lawyer, Palestine, Rashid Khalidi academic, author, Palestine/US, Richard Falk former UN special rapporteur on Occupied Palestinian Territories, US, Rigoberta Menchú Nobel Peace Laureate, Guatemala, Roger Waters musician, UK, Ronnie Kasrils former government minister, South Africa, Rose Fenton director, Free Word Centre, UK, Sabrina Mahfouz author, UK, Saleh Bakri actor, Palestine, Sir Geoffrey Bindman lawyer, UK, Slavoj Zizek author, Slovenia, Steven Rose academic, UK, Tom Leonard writer, Scotland, Tunde Adebimpe musician, US, Victoria Brittain journalist, UK, Willie van Peer academic, Germany, Zwelinzima Vavi secretary general of Cosatu, South Africa

• Seumas Milne (Gaza: This shameful injustice will only end if the cost of it rises, 16 July) says that it is “beyond the realm of fantasy” for Israel to claim that it is responding to rocket fire “out of the clear blue sky”, yet before the launch of Operation Protective Edge on 6 July, Hamas averaged three rockets a day from 14 to 29 June and 17 a day from 30 June to 6 July. Its attacks on Israel target civilians and residential areas.

Milne also claims that the blockade of Gaza is illegal, whereas the UN’s Palmer report concluded that it is legal. Hamas is internationally recognised as a terrorist organisation, whose objective is not a peaceful solution to the Middle East’s problems but the destruction of the state of Israel. Hamas has rejected a ceasefire, brokered by Egypt and supported by the Arab League and the UN, and greeted the start of Israel’s five-hour ceasefire by firing rockets.

Milne praises Hamas’s “defiance and resistance” and says it “has shown it can hit back across Israel”. This is no less than the glorification of terror. His claim that there is a “power imbalance” is to imply that it is wrong for Israel to defend itself. The current crisis is a tragedy of Hamas’s making and its latest actions only deter the great majority of Israelis who want a secure and just peace with their Palestinian neighbours.
Terry Philpot
Limpsfield Chart, Surrey

• Having lived in Israel for the past five years, I have seen first-hand the impact that ongoing terrorism has had on the country. In 2005, the Palestinian people had a great opportunity to create a new life for themselves in Gaza, but under the direction of Hamas, they turned to terrorism. Hamas consistently uses the people of Gaza as human shields and locates rockets in populated areas. Where is your condemnation of Hamas?
Doron Youngerwood
Modi’in, West Bank

• Seumas Milne argues that the price of Israel’s occupation needs to be raised. One way of doing this is to challenge Israel’s claim that it is and is not an occupation.

This convenient ambiguity has enabled it to cherry-pick the Geneva convention and justify treating the occupied Palestinians differently from Israeli citizens while simultaneously annexing, expropriating and settling chunks of their territory. After 47 years, it is time to call the Israeli bluff. The Palestinian thinker Sam Bahour and I have proposed that a firm deadline be set for Israel to make up its mind definitively one way or the other. If it is an occupation, Israel’s – supposedly provisional – custodianship should be brought to a swift end. If it is not an occupation, there is no justification for denying equal rights to everyone who is subject to Israeli rule, whether Israeli or Palestinian.

The key is to remove the status quo as the default option. So, should Israel choose not to choose, other states may interpret this to mean in effect that it intends to hold on to the occupied territories indefinitely and hold Israel accountable to the equality benchmark. The clutch of international laws pertaining to apartheid rather than occupation would then come into force. The hope is that the Israeli people would rebel against the pariah status this would entail and vote in a new government ready to do a genuine two-state deal before it really is too late.
Tony Klug
London

• In your editorial on Gaza (17 July), after the mention of an Israeli airstrike on Saturday in which 22 were killed, we are told that “those on the ground did not deny that the Hamas-affiliated police chief of Gaza City was sheltering there”. By suggesting that it is relevant that this accusation wasn’t denied, the Guardian appears to be endorsing the Israeli use of extrajudicial executions of Palestinian public servants. It would be inconceivable to write this way if the situation were reversed.
Sam Playle
London

• When the Arab world media is seen with rare unanimous voice to be holding Hamas responsible for the current Gaza war, it is fascinating that the Guardian remains consistent in condemning Israel alone. Which one is reporting news and which one its own prejudices?
Peter Simpson
Pinner, Middlesex

Independent:

Aid from the West being used to bankroll Isis in Syria” (18 July) – how surprising to read this in The Independent; the tone and misleading nature of the headline are irresponsible.

The headline suggests there is something to be exposed: that aid is being misappropriated. Yet this is clearly not the case, according to the rest of the article, which explains how aid is being effectively distributed.

That humanitarian aid is reaching people who are living under Isis is a success story, not a scandal. As a neutral and impartial humanitarian organisation, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement operates according to the principle that humanitarian assistance should reach the people who need it most, no matter who they are, where they are or what government or regime they are living under. We believe that all civilians should have access to the assistance they need, regardless of whether they are in Isis-controlled areas.

Aid agencies operate in some of the most insecure and remote areas of the world. Staff and volunteers often take extraordinary risks to reach those worst affected by disaster and conflict, as demonstrated by the tragic loss of 44 Red Crescent volunteers in Syria.

Articles like this are at best unhelpful, and at worst impact the ability of humanitarian organisations to access those most in need.

Mike Adamson, Acting Chief Executive British Red Cross, London EC2

 

If the headline about the West “bankrolling Isis” was not misleading enough, the report linking aid to towns “which have witnessed beheadings, crucifixions…” seemed to suggest that aid should not be delivered to civilian populations trapped in areas under the control of proscribed organisations.

But the consequence of such an inhumane approach is mass starvation.

The article then quotes the Department for International Development stating that it does not fund Isis, but goes on to quote Bashar al-Assad on the price to be paid by Western states in supporting terrorism.

The less sensational points in the article, such as the statement that aid in these areas is largely distributed by Syrian relief committees which pre-existed Isis, or that aid workers can operate largely unhindered in Isis-controlled areas, is lost by conflating this with Isis’s own aid (and fuel) distribution, funded from its own Gulf donors and the spoils of war.

Ironically, this unhindered access contrasts with regular interference with aid distribution in regime-held areas of Syria which has made NGOs, in some cases, pawns in the Assad regime’s “submit or starve” policy.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, for example, was only sporadically allowed into the besieged suburb of Yarmouk, Damascus (where my in-laws have been trapped). NGOs such as Mercy Corps that dare to deliver aid to opposition-held areas get booted out of regime-held areas.

As a charity lawyer with a particular focus on this region, I advise international NGOs on operating in high-risk areas – it is a principle of international humanitarian law that civilians in conflicts on all sides have a right to material assistance, and even our breathtakingly wide counter-terrorism laws do not criminalise negotiating access to civilians in areas under the control of terrorist organisations.

We should be doing everything we can to support the civilian victims of the largest humanitarian catastrophe of this century, rather than chasing the latest headline.

I am proud of the British Government’s commitment to humanitarian relief and to organisations like Mercy Corps and the World Food Programme which deliver life-saving aid in the most difficult of circumstances and hope readers will join me in continuing to donate to this worthy cause.

Augustus Della-Porta, Cambridge

 

Privatisation of suffering

While I am religious, my concerns about the Assisted Dying Bill are not based on my religious beliefs, at least not directly. What really bothers me is the fact  that what we are seeing is the privatisation of suffering.

At the moment, the people who are in these desperate and tragic situations are of public concern, both in terms of the cost and the fact that we can see it.

The question of the cost of the treatment involved is one that no one is asking, nor should it be. But while in public hospitals, the suffering of the people in these situations is a very public suffering, and that is the problem.

I believe that the suffering will be moved from the public sphere, where we as a society would be forced to respond, to the private sphere, the houses and the minds of those who, while not in extremis, are forced now to ask the question: given that the opportunity for assisted dying exists, do I need to be here?

That is suffering, a different kind of suffering, a very private suffering but suffering nonetheless.

Matthew Thomas, London SE6

 

In 1992 my father was dying of liver, bowel and lung cancer. The morphine was kept high on a kitchen shelf, to be administered by the community nurse each day and, towards the end, there were days when he considered self-administering a lethal dose.

He made the decision to be hospitalised, first and foremost to rid himself of the option of suicide. I would have understood him taking that option, but he felt it was more important to let the staff in the hospice monitor the pain relief so that he could say goodbye to family and friends. Despite their care, the pain was terrible.

But he carried another kind of agony as well: he had some huge regrets. The nurse told me he wasn’t at peace, that something was troubling him deeply and he wouldn’t be able to die peacefully unless it was resolved. She asked: wasn’t there someone dad trusted whom he could speak frankly with?

Twenty-four hours before he died, his priest visited. Dad was able to let go of his burden and afterwards, despite the pain, you could see he wasn’t struggling any more. For me, it meant the door opened on a reconciliation which I’d waited all my adult life for.

A cousin wanted to visit dad on this last day and I was tempted to say no, to let dad conserve his energy. But for what? This cousin said later that being able to see dad that day changed the course of his life. In his reflections on his own life, dad was able to guide him away from making some of the same grave mistakes.

Despite my initial desire to support dad in ending his life, I have come to cherish that last 48 hours as pivotal. He was able at last to die in peace, and his legacy for many who visited him was a deep wisdom which comes from knowing there is little time left to say what matters most. For me, it meant an understanding that the very last hours of someone’s life are as precious as their first.

Robyn Appleton, Reading

In all the debate about assisted dying I do hope the view is taken into account of Indians like myself who believe assisted dying will not terminate your life and stop the suffering.

This is because we believe we are trapped in an endless cycle of death and rebirth which we call samsara, until we reach nirvana. It is the samsara that causes our suffering, and only through being part of a sangha, or community, can we learn how to reach nirvana. The sangha could be seen as providing assisted living.

Kartar Uppal, West Bromwich

 

The sidelining of satan

It is understandable that the Church of England has stopped mentioning Satan at Christenings (“The devil is in the details”, 18 July): he has been overtaken by knighted bankers, phone-tappers, pay-day lenders and television stars of the 1980s.

Ian McKenzie, Lincoln

 

Prepare to emigrate to Scotland

Alex Salmond is said to feel (report, 17 July) that a Yes vote will protect the NHS in Scotland from the privatisation likely in England should there be a Tory majority next May. In combination with many of their other ideas for the future of this country, Cameron and Co are likely to encourage emigration, probably to Scotland.

Peter Erridge, East Grinstead

 

Something evil down under

I used to admire Australians: bravery in two world wars, Nobel Prize-winning scientists, wonderful cricketers… But now Australian big names stand for varieties of evil: the Murdoch empire, Rolf Harris, and even its Prime Minister, Tony Abbott (“Thumbs down under – Australia’s repeal of the carbon tax is a retrograde step”, 18 July). What could be more evil than a plan to wreck the planet?

Peter Brooker, West Wickham 

 

Democracy good …democracy bad

Strange how our love of democracy fades the nearer we get to the eastern Mediterranean.

Bob Simmonds, Stickney, Lincolnshire

Times:

Advocates and opponents of the Assisted Dying bill both uphold the sanctity of life

Sir, I always read Melanie Reid’s Saturday column. A cerebral haemorrhage seven years ago robbed me of the ability to do many things I enjoyed but I can walk with a stick, drive and even garden after a fashion. My difficulties are minor compared to Melanie Reid’s, and I remind myself of this when I am tempted to feel sorry for myself.

Her Opinion piece (July 18) on assisted dying is extremely well argued in a non-emotional way. I cannot understand how anyone not in her situation can presume to tell her (or anyone else, for that matter) that she should not be allowed to decide the timing of her departure from a life that might at some point become intolerable.

Barry White
Loughton, Essex

Sir, The Assisted Dying bill includes hospice care among the end-of-life choices to be offered to those with terminal illnesses. However, it is not always possible to secure a bed when it is wanted. Hospices get two thirds of their income from donations. This bill will give no real choice for the terminally ill unless it guarantees government-funded hospice places for everyone who wants one.

Dr John Newton
Sutton, London

Sir, Dr Retsas (letter, July 16) notes the difficulty in predicting how long a patient will live, but the bill is aimed at those who have exhausted all treatments and have intolerable symptoms from which they wish for relief by ending their lives, after trying all palliative care can offer. I too am an oncologist, and have seen such patients, and believe that we should try to help them.

Sir Christopher Paine
Wotton Underwood, Bucks

Sir, Your correspondents (July 18) should not be referring to assisted dying as euthanasia. It is muddying the waters, perhaps deliberately. The whole point of the debate is to give people the chance to make the decision for themselves. Of course, there should be carefully thought out safeguards, and even then there will misuses, but if not, we will continue to leave that choice of life or death in the hands of others.

Judith Wyss
Ely, Cambridgeshire

Sir, Suicide is legal in the UK, and the means are freely available. Mentally competent disabled people have an unquestionable right to be enabled to commit legal acts. Indeed, it is commensurate with their dignity as human beings to be enabled to do so.

If we are concerned about abuses of the legalisation of assisted suicide, we need to look at our attitudes towards disability and illness, and how people are growing up and being educated in such matters. I believe that, much like abortion, the legalisation and regulation of assisted suicide will make it less open to abuse.

Dr Daniel Emlyn-Jones
Oxford

Sir, It is very hard to choose to die and there should be no pressure to do so simply because you are a burden. If you believe in the sanctity of life, then we should all hope for a peaceful and loving last goodbye.

Pauline Lecount
Bearwood, W Midlands

Sir, Matthew Parris (July 16) is right. To avail of assisted suicide so as to avoid being a burden to others is, far from being reprehensible, a natural and honourable reason for doing so.

Tony Phillips
Chalfont St Giles, Bucks

Care for the elderly used to be provided by councils – now it is a matter of profits for shareholders

Sir, Discussions about care of the elderly often ignore the profit motive. Privatisation of care homes lies at the root of poor standards and high costs. Making money for shareholders and executives has led to the asset stripping of our old people; care workers on minimum wages have little incentive to do the job properly.

Care used to be provided free by county councils, which trained staff to high standards and paid decent wages. Giving the elderly the best possible care is surely an obligation on society. Politicians and bureaucrats shirked that responsibility and sold council care homes, calling it the best value for taxpayers. It’s hardly value for old folk when they lose their homes and their life savings.

Let’s accept that the days of free care are over, but old people could still pay their way in council-run care homes. Without the profit motive, the costs would fall, standards would rise, and there would be no need for a new, taxpayer-funded watchdog with 700 inspectors on the payroll.

Philip Chadwick

Southsea, Hants

The long-awaited F-35 fighter aircraft shows no signs of arriving, even at the Farnborough airshow

Sir, You are right to cast doubts on the F-35 programme (Thunderer, July 17). After more than 11 years, and with at least three years more to run, the project still cannot deliver. It was supposed to finish in 2011 but now it looks like 2016. On top of the recent engine failure, there are software and hardware problems which resist huge efforts in manpower and money being thrown at them.

Perhaps the decision not to appear at Farnborough (report, July 16) was actually a blessing in disguise as one of the ongoing flight restrictions that affect the F-35 is that it is not allowed to fly within 25 miles of a thunderstorm. Given the weather forecast it would have been such a pity to come all this way just to sit on the ground (at RAF Fairford).

Group Captain David Hamilton

(RAF, ret’d)

Wrea Green, Lancs

Care for the elderly used to be provided by councils – now it is a matter of profits for shareholders

Sir, Discussions about care of the elderly often ignore the profit motive. Privatisation of care homes lies at the root of poor standards and high costs. Making money for shareholders and executives has led to the asset stripping of our old people; care workers on minimum wages have little incentive to do the job properly.

Care used to be provided free by county councils, which trained staff to high standards and paid decent wages. Giving the elderly the best possible care is surely an obligation on society. Politicians and bureaucrats shirked that responsibility and sold council care homes, calling it the best value for taxpayers. It’s hardly value for old folk when they lose their homes and their life savings.

Let’s accept that the days of free care are over, but old people could still pay their way in council-run care homes. Without the profit motive, the costs would fall, standards would rise, and there would be no need for a new, taxpayer-funded watchdog with 700 inspectors on the payroll.

Philip Chadwick

Southsea, Hants

Learning music at school has enormous benefits, and the education authorities’ neglect of the arts is woeful

Sir, You often lament the lack of funding for the arts in schools. I was a music teacher for many years, and I am appalled how many schools now have to rely on recording and videos to teach music. Some teachers don’t know anything about the basics of music. Singing and dancing are a change from academic subjects and often help with concentration. Also music gives children confidence.

Our leading musicians should do their utmost to persuade the new secretary of state for education to change this attitude to the teaching of the arts.

Catherine Barber

Wakefield

Sir, Patrick Kidd’s excellent article (July 17) on sport, music and Neville Cardus reminded me of when, during the 1990 World Cup, I was teaching in a West London comprehensive school. I often discussed the tournament with students and one day tried to widen the discussion by asking them if they knew the title of the BBC’s introductory music.

“It’s called Pavarotti, sir,” came the instant reply. Alas, the personality of the performer was as dominant then as it is now.

Mark Davies

Kings Langley, Herts

Sir, I applaud the BBC Proms for broadening the appeal of classical music beyond its normal audience. Music may be integral to the portrayal of sport in popular culture, but the dominance of sport in this culture makes it hard to make classical music accessible for all.

Governments, aided by the media, regard participating in sport as vital for young people’s physical and character development. This is not true of music, despite its study helping people to develop skills such as teamwork, discipline and creativity. Sadly, music is often under threat in state schools due to centrally mandated curriculum changes which emphasise “vocational skills” and the widespread misconception that classical music is boring and elitist.

Only by making learning a musical instrument as ubiquitous as learning to kick a football around can we ensure that music has a sporting chance.

John Slinger

Rugby

It is the 200th anniversary of the death of the man who called Australia by its name for the first time

Sir, Today it is 200 years since Matthew Flinders died, after circumnavigating our great southern continent and surveying vast swathes of its coastline.

While making his way back to England after his third voyage of exploration Flinders was detained in Mauritius for six years. In captivity he spent his time composing his monumental book A Voyage to Terra Australis, in which he was the first to use the name “Australia” for the land mass.

He died aged 40, one day after his book’s official publication, and without knowing if the name Australia would be officially accepted.

David D’Lima

Sturt, Australia

Attempts by fielders to distract the batsman’s concentration with insults are against the spirit of cricket

Sir, Sledging of batsmen by bowlers and fielders in any form of cricket is repugnant. That the England captain, Alistair Cook, has defended his fast bowler James Anderson — “I do not think that I will tell him to tone it down” (July 17) — says much about Cook’s captaincy credentials. Rather than squabbling with India, England should take a lead in stamping out this nasty practice.

John Edge

Sevenoaks, Kent

Sir, Simon Barnes’s article about games and fighting (July 18) brings to mind the intense rivalry on the field between Denis Compton and the Australian bowlers Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller. Indeed Lindwall split Compton’s head open at Old Trafford in 1948 (he returned, after stitches, to score 145 not out). This intensity was matched by their friendship off the field. Compton and Miller were frequently seen together at the races. As a very feeble old man, Miller came from Australia to attend Compton’s memorial service in Westminster Abbey.

Michael Brotherton

Chippenham, Wilts

Telegraph:

SIR – We are advised to turn off lights and electrical equipment in this weather in order to avoid generating excess heat.

What should I do with the Aga?

Susie Phillips
Steeple Ashton, Wiltshire

SIR – I read that I am to stay indoors owing to the heatwave. I have been indoors since last winter, when I was advised to shelter from the forecasted snow and ice.

Please can the all-clear be sounded after these indoor warnings so we know when it is safe to venture outdoors? Or are we to use our common sense? Perish the thought.

Dr David Cottam
Dormansland, Surrey

SIR – Being obedient citizens, we have drawn our curtains, switched off our lights and hunkered down in order to ride out the perils of the heatwave.

Would the powers that be object, do you think, if we snuggled in our sleeping bags, sipping cocoa?

It’s 16C here in the Lake District.

Louise Broughton
Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria

SIR – Gatwick can deliver a new runway more quickly – and with huge economic benefits but less environmental impact – than the other plans put forward.

Crucially, an expanded Gatwick can be delivered without taxpayers’ money, as the airport has already secured through private investors the £9 billion required to build a second runway. So passengers would reap the benefits without being hit in the pocket.

Moreover, huge infrastructure projects create wider economic growth, and an expanded Gatwick would deliver these benefits where they are needed most: in the South East. West London is already well-established; expanding Heathrow would focus regeneration in the wrong place. It is south London that is crying out for growth, and Gatwick is the perfect catalyst to produce new jobs, homes and business opportunities from Croydon to Clapham, Brighton to Bermondsey.

Steve O’Connell (Con)
London Assembly Member for Croydon and Sutton

SIR – Heathrow Airport says it will consider introducing a charge on motorists dropping passengers off if it gets to build a third runway. London ranks as one of the worst European cities for air quality and not enough has been done to reduce toxic emissions. More than 4,000 deaths are caused each year in London by pollutants.

Heathrow bosses need to show they are serious about looking after the local area by unclogging the surrounding roads of traffic and using the money from the long-overdue toll to lay on extra public transport.

Darren Johnson (Green)
London Assembly Member (London-wide)

Sign of the times

SIR – Roger Knight suggeststhat members of the public should help trim overgrown road signs to assist motorists.

This action may not be wise. A gentleman in a nearby town was appalled at the overgrown state of a cycle path near his home. Without “authority”, he spent much time and money clearing the undergrowth, accumulated rubbish and dangerous broken railings, and installed seating for public use, vastly improving the area.

His reward was to be reported to the police for metal theft and possible criminal damage by the charity that had let the path fall into disrepair.

Colin Marshall
Kirkbride, Cumberland

EU secrecy

SIR – As a former MEP, I was astounded to discover that this week the European Parliament voted to appoint Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission in a secret ballot, and refused to tell voters how each MEP voted. It must be the only parliament in Europe – there are 28 national parliaments within the EU – where the elected members are unanswerable to those who vote for them.

This secrecy within the European Parliament is an insult to democracy. No wonder there is a poor turnout in European elections right across the EU. MEPs must be answerable to those who vote for them.

Lord Kilclooney (Crossbench)
London SW1

Pushing the envelope

SIR – James Addison’s cryptic addresses reminded me of my father’s brain-teaser:

Wood
John
Hants

A letter addressed, of course, to John Underwood, Andover, Hants.

Diggory Seacome
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

A breed apart

SIR – When does a dog cease to be pedigree? Our local paper, the Grimsby Telegraph, has just advertised a “dachjackapoo” puppy. In my day, that would have been a mongrel.

Chris Whitfield
Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire

Cricket as a game

SIR – The fuss over an argument between two cricketers is ridiculous.

Cricket is a game, for heaven’s sake, and if the Indian visiting side can’t play without wailing to Mummy, they should pack up and go home.

Antony Johnson
Beaminster, Dorset

SIR – Anyone who says that county cricket is dead should have been at Castle Park, Colchester, this week for the match between Essex and Hampshire.

I was fortunate enough to attend every day for a contest that contained all you could wish from a cricket match – a brilliant century, batting collapses and recoveries, superb fielding and catching, outstanding spin bowling and swing bowling, and a nerve-shredding finish.

Either team could have won, and though Essex scraped home by two wickets, the one true winner was the game of cricket.

Peter Cloke
Holbrook, Suffolk

Unjammed fridge

SIR – I buy all my jam, marmalade and chutney, home-made, from my local community market. They taste real and don’t need to be placed in the fridge.

Considering the wonderful quality, I don’t mind paying a bit more, and it often goes to a charity anyway.

Chris Harding
Parkstone, Dorset

Egg-heads

SIR – As a middle-school teacher, I was interested in your report on tougher questions planned for Sats tests for 11-year-olds. My husband informs me that I need my 12-times table to help me count eggs. Does it have any other uses?

Maggi Davis
Pershore, Worcestershire

Bird-brains

SIR – Gavin Inglis wrote of birds pecking through twine for nesting material. I had a similar experience, so I wired an imitation crow to a cane as a deterrent. It didn’t work. The dunnocks and robins quickly worked out that it was a fake, and pecked at it till they had removed all the stuffing, presumably for nesting. Good luck to them.

Alex Smith
Orford, Suffolk

SIR – I urge peers to consider Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill with wisdom and insight. Having worked as a consultant in palliative medicine, I am convinced the arguments put forward to change the law are specious, ill-conceived and dangerous.

Changing the law is unsafe, because suffering is subjective and complex. Suffering is not measurable and can be mitigated by correct, individualised care.

Doctors’ prognoses are not watertight, and remarkable turnarounds do occur. (Stephen Hawking is a clear example.)

It is difficult to detect covert pressures, such as the unspoken inference from professionals or family that the patient is a burden or drain on resources.

Changing the law is also unnecessary. Specialist palliative care can address the all-round needs of patients and their families, enabling humane living.

Ninety-three per cent of the members of the Association of Palliative Medicine are opposed to any change in the law. The few who advocate change are hospital-based. The additional benefit of a hospice is to put 100 per cent of the focus on palliative care in a suitable environment.

The Oregon model of assisted dying is seriously flawed. Giving lethal medicines to patients with untreated and undiagnosed depression is but one problem. A proportion of patients prescribed assisted dying medication do not use it, and this indicates the grey areas that doctors are being expected to address.

Oregon has a palliative care service that is far less developed than ours here in Britain, which is the world leader in specialist palliative end-of-life care.

I urge peers to resist the pressure groups who give assurances that their proposed safeguards would protect the public in general, the patient in particular and the medical profession. They will not.

Dr Stephen Dyer
Wivelsfield Green, West Sussex

SIR – Peers attending today’s debate and intending to vote need to remind themselves of a straightforward imperative, namely: Thou shalt not kill.

Richard Symington
London SW17

SIR – The proposed safeguard in this Bill of the signatures of two doctors brings to mind my chilling experience of the safeguard as it applies to abortions.

Some years ago, on a routine visit to my long-established and respected family doctor, a few months before my marriage, I said jokingly that I hoped I was not yet pregnant and would not look fat in my wedding dress. He replied that he could easily secure a signature from a colleague to do something about this if I wished.

Hanna Chillen
London SW10

SIR – Boris Johnson talks of “those whose lives have been prolonged by modern medicine beyond their ability to endure”. So, it is not assisted dying that needs to be addressed but the sometimes unkind practice of assisted living by an over-zealous medical profession. The maxim is: because you can does not necessarily mean you should.

Julia Bishop
West Malling, Kent

SIR – When parliamentarians debate assisted dying or euthanasia, it should not be viewed through the eyes of the millionaire novelist but of the elderly person, alone in a hospital bed without friends, family or support.

Our society does not measure up well when it comes to the care of its weakest members. There is the appalling treatment of children at one end of the scale and the warehousing of elderly people for the benefit of an avaricious, privately run care sector at the other.

If anyone believes that this society is mature enough to handle euthanasia then they should think again.

Paul Donovan
London E11

Irish Times:

Sir, – While the senseless deaths of four young Palestinian children playing football on a beach in Gaza should give the government of Israel and the leaders of Hamas sufficient reason to reflect on the tragic consequences of their actions and agree to an immediate ceasefire with a halt to the wanton violence on both sides, Palestinian ambassador Ahmad Abdelrazek could have provided answers to many of the questions raised in his letter (July 17th).

For example, in response to Israeli ambassador Boaz Modai’s observation (July 16th) that “the difference between Israel and Hamas boils down to this: we are using bomb shelters and the Iron Dome system to protect the residents of Israel”, Mr Abdelrazek’s describes how “The people of Gaza (1.7 million) have no bomb shelters, no Iron Dome, and indeed no air raid alarms”. However, he neglects to mention how instead of these they have a large number of tunnels which have been used to smuggle arms and rockets into Gaza. If Hamas really wanted to protect the citizens of Gaza from Israel’s efforts to stem the barrage of rockets fired at them across the border, then surely a far better use of their international financial aid would have been to build underground bomb shelters rather than tunnels?

Without the tunnels, the supply route for bringing rockets into Gaza would have been cut off and Hamas would have been unable to attack Israel in the first place. Consequently Israel would have had no need to defend its citizens, the Palestinians would have had no call for shelters, and the international aid could have been used to help improve Gaza’s infrastructure as western donor countries intended.

Mahmoud Abbas has often repeated that his government will abide by all previous agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In 1995, when Yitzhak Rabin, prime minister of Israel, and Yasser Arafat, chairman of the PLO, signed the Oslo II accord, one of the key commitments in relation to Gaza was that it should be free from rockets. Had this been adhered to, then today Hamas would not have had any rockets to fire at Israel. But, over the intervening years, this pledge was not honoured and the world’s leaders chose to turn a blind eye to the smuggling of weapons and allow Hamas to rearm. This makes one of the latest suggestions coming from Hamas – a 10-year truce – simply laughable.

If the IDF commanders believe Hamas can be defeated by military action, then they, too, are mistaken. As in Northern Ireland, the only viable solution to this problem will be through diplomacy. This will require strong leadership from both governments, along with support and encouragement from countries across the world. Finally, international media outlets – including The Irish Times – need to play a more active role in the quest for peace in the Middle East by reporting on the conflict in a far more objective and balanced manner than has been their custom and practice in the past. – Yours, etc,

DAVID M ABRAHAMSON,

Glenageary,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – The Irish Times should be ashamed of itself for publishing the letter by Israeli ambassador Boaz Modai. Your newspaper needs to recognise that what is happening in Gaza is not some sort of academic debate where opinions are offered in good faith, but a deeply moral challenge that requires all people of conscience to stand with the oppressed against the oppressor. – Yours, etc,

RICHARD IRVINE,

Leicester Court,

Carrickfergus, Co Antrim.

Sir, – Once again the international community has decided to stand idly by as Israel rains down death and destruction on the Palestinians. Even when the major western powers call for a ceasefire, they do so in terms that put most of the blame on the Palestinians. The greater the level of Israeli terror, the more the Palestinians are told to end their resistance.

Israel has continually shown itself to be opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state and it doesn’t believe in extending to Palestinians the same rights it claims for Israelis. Unless Israel is genuinely prepared to negotiate a just and lasting solution with whatever representatives the Palestinian people elect, the cycle of violence will continue. Let us hope that Israel soon produces leaders who genuinely seek peace. – Yours, etc,

JIMMY CORCORAN,

Bakers Road,

Gurranabraher, Cork.

A chara, – We have a Government that sees fit to appoint two Ministers dealing with Irish-language affairs, neither of whom can speak or conduct their affairs in Irish when dealing with the Irish-speaking population who still live on this island.

One wonders does the same attitude prevail towards the French language when appointing an Irish ambassador to France?

What is clear now is that we have a Government that seems obsessed with imposing taxes, counting pennies and cutting services wherever possible. At the same time there seems to be an almost wilful blindness when it comes to placing value upon one of the most important, distinctive and intrinsically unique features about us as a people, the Irish language. – Is mise,

ROB Mac GIOLLARNÁTH,

Sandyford View,

Dublin 18.

Sir, – The logic of all the ruaille buaille and political posturing about the appointment of Ministers for the Gaeltacht surely means that we should have a vet in charge of the Department of Agriculture, a doctor in charge of the Department of Health, a general in charge of the Department of Defence, a teacher in charge of the Department of Education, and so on.

Is what we need another general election on the lines of the vocational panels for the Seanad elections?

What a prospect! – Yours, etc,

BRENDAN O’DONNELL,

Glenageary,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – It strikes me as ironic that native speakers and Irish-language enthusiasts should criticise Joe McHugh’s appointment as Minister of State for the Gaeltacht.

After all, he is presumably a product of the Irish educational system which has failed so dismally to teach the language over the past 90-odd years. Who better to take responsibility for the promotion of the language than someone who has attended Irish schools for 12 years or more and, like myself, remains unable to hold even a basic conversation in the Irish language?

The alternative is to appoint someone from a minority group within the country – ie someone who has come from a Gaeilgeoir background, someone who was brought up in a Gaeltacht area or one of the tiny minority of people who, despite the awfulness of the educational system in relation to the teaching of Irish, has acquired fluency in the language.

I would venture to suggest that it is unlikely that someone from any of these groups has any awareness of the difficulty so many of us faced in coping with the Irish language as a school subject.

I have no great enthusiasm for the language but neither am I opposed to it being taught. I do insist, however, that a system which allows so much time to be spent on a subject without producing a positive result needs to be examined critically. It may be that Mr McHugh is the man for the job. – Yours, etc,

LEO ROCHE,

Grosvenor Place,

Rathmines,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – The article “Uncompetitive wage rates will put us out of business, says Greyhound boss” (July 17th) has cemented my long-held view that the collection of domestic waste should have remained the sole preserve of local authorities and should never have become an enterprise opportunity for private entrepreneurs.

The job of collection of waste of any kind, whether it be business or domestic, is an essential service and those who do such work have an unenviable role for which they ought to be at least reasonably well paid. Greyhound, however, faces the usual requirements of “reduced costs” and “increased productivity” (it’s curious how the generally accepted goal of all private enterprise, ie the maximising of profits, is generally absent from such arguments) so workers find themselves competitors in the so-called “race to the bottom”.

Greyhound’s executive director, Michael Buckley, states, “I know the pay cuts we are looking for are big, but if [the workers] win, and get what they want, then we are out of business.”

But, surely, that’s part and parcel of capitalism? So be it. If a business can’t pay its workers a living wage that allows them a pride in doing their job, coupled with a salary which allows them some semblance of dignity, then it has no right to remain in business in any kind of civilised society. However, with pusillanimous unions, laissez faire governments and a society that is rapidly seguing into an economy, that notion is receding. – Yours, etc,

JD MANGAN,

Stillorgan Road,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Having read Ned O’Sullivan’s remarks in the Seanad drawing attention to the scandalous behaviour of the seagull population of Dublin (“FF Senator says ‘seagulls have lost the run of themselves’”, July 17th), I now realise how misguided it was of me to have voted for the abolition of that august body.  – Yours, etc,

MARTIN DOLAN,

Rochestown Avenue,

Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Sir, – To quote Senator Ned O’Sullivan, “seagulls are very intelligent”. Isn’t it time we had a few of them in the Seanad? – Yours, etc,

MARY McGRATH,

Stone Court,

Lover’s Walk,

Cork.

Sir, – Senator Catherine Noone recently complained about the chimes on ice cream vans tempting children to partake of ice cream cones.

More recently Senator Ned O’Sullivan has complained about seagulls going about their business in noisy fashion, and robbing children of their ice cream cones and lollipops.

An Irish solution to an Irish problem, perhaps? – Yours, etc,

WILLIAM F O’BYRNE,

Maxwell Road,

Rathgar, Dublin 6.

A chara, – As a resident of Dublin 1, I am well aware of the problems seagulls cause: screeching from 3am until midnight; ripping open plastic bags to get food; leaving droppings on cars; picking at dead pigeons; even perching on window sills looking for food inside apartments. While some in the media have ridiculed Senator Ned O’Sullivan’s efforts to raise this problem, I invite them to spend a week in this part of the city, wade through the rubbish that covers our streets, listen to the seagulls all night, or even hose down their doorway of waste. – Is mise,

RICHARD WILSON,

North Great George’s Street,

Dublin 1.

Sir, – I see that Killiney beach has been closed to swimmers due to bacterial contamination (“Bacteria levels at Killiney beach ‘significantly higher’ than normal”, July 17th). While the exact cause of this problem is not clear at present, it does raise the question as to why dogs are still allowed on our bathing beaches. Your report notes that “Dogs splashing around can cause contamination, with the average dog faeces containing enough bacteria to contaminate four Olympic-sized swimming pools”.

On urban beaches in Australia, Europe and the US, dogs are banned, and the ban is rigorously enforced by the lifeguards.

Killiney Hill has been allowed to degenerate into an outdoor dog toilet and I worry that a similar fate awaits the beach, as the recent complete ban on dogs at Sandycove and Seapoint beaches was not extended to Killiney.

Clearly, a decision has been made by Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Council to let Killiney “go to the dogs”. – Yours, etc,

KEVIN BERWICK,

Abberley,

Killiney, Co Dublin.

Sir, – I would be in favour of free GP care if the country were awash with GPs and with adequate infrastructure. It is not. General practice is the bucket of the health service and as the Government measures increase the flow, the surplus will flood towards the hospitals. Waiting times for both will increase and the only people that will benefit are those in the private sector. The two-tier system will worsen. Clearly our politicians, as with the medical card fiasco, will have to see it to believe it. – Yours, etc,

Dr ELUNED LAWLOR,

Loughboy Medical Centre,

Kilkenny.

Sir, – Leave one standing and knock the other one. That should please everybody. – Yours, etc,

LIAM BREEN,

Castleknock Crescent,

Laurel Lodge, Dublin 15.

Sir, – I salute Michael Noonan’s vision for Dublin’s Docklands to be our version of Canary Wharf (“Nama plans €3 billion spend on Dublin docklands and housing”, Business Today, July 17th).

In light of recent reports, Pigeon Wharf may well be an apposite moniker. – Yours, etc,

FRANK BYRNE,

Cormac Terrace,

Terenure,

Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Your Editorial “Cameron’s purge” (July 17th) regrets the lack of a typeface making clear when the rhetorical device of irony is being employed.

The notorious British politician and journalist Tom Driberg proposed a new typeface, based on italics with the slope reversed, to be called “ironics”, for just this purpose.

As Driberg remarked: “There is no joke so obvious that some bloody fool won’t miss the point.” – Yours, etc,

Dr JOHN DOHERTY,

Cnoc an Stollaire,

Gaoth Dobhair, Co Donegal.

Sir, – Alan Conlon (July 18th) takes Gerry Christie (July 15th) to task for suggesting that Noddy and Big Ears once shared a bed. He boldly asserts that Noddy and Big Ears “never” slept together. Well, I’d like to quote a piece from Enid Blyton’s Hurrah for Little Noddy: “Then they [Noddy and Big Ears] squashed into Big Ears’s tiny, soft bed, put their arms round one another to stop themselves from rolling out,and fell fast asleep”. I hope that puts the issue to bed. – Yours, etc,

PAUL DELANEY,

Beacon Hill,

Dalkey, Co Dublin.

Sir, – The apparent confusion over Noddy’s domestic arrangements may arise from people referring to different versions of Enid Blyton’s classic tales, which were rewritten to delete episodes, such as PC Plod bashing Noddy over the head with a truncheon, that might sound jarring to contemporary Big Ears. – Yours, etc,

PATRICIA O’RIORDAN,

Stamer Street,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – Michael Parsons very kindly mentions my work on the Irish Tourist Association Topographical and General Survey for Enniskerry, Co Wicklow (“A river runs through it”, Property, July 17th).

These under-used reports provide lots of detail about localities all over Ireland in the 1940s and are available in county libraries. Sadly those for Wicklow localities are no longer accessible as Wicklow County Council has closed off access to their local studies section indefinitely since July 1st, because of the moratorium on employment in the public sector. – Yours, etc,

Dr MICHAEL SEERY,

Dublin Institute

of Technology,

Kevin Street, Dublin 8.

Irish Independent:

* I agree with the tone and tenor of John Mulligan’s report, ‘O’Leary tells Noonan to stick to cuts’ (Business Week, July 17, 2014).

However, linking the €2bn of cuts to the timescale of the next election is indicating that decisions in this matter are made in the interests of re-election and not in the best long-term interest of the citizens of this country.

Michael O’Leary says he is a democrat and we elect the politicians “and we get worse and worse at it”. On the public sector, O’Leary is on the button, as usual, in the need for strong management, since the administrative staffing levels could easily be halved. At present, unions and management are spending their time protecting their fiefdoms.

On the ‘banking inquiry’, we need to know why 164 TDs didn’t revolt over the guarantee to the banks in the interest of the citizens, or were they beholden to the banks?

I applaud Michael O’Leary for his honest and outspoken views and would expect nothing else from a man who faced down Taoisigh, governments and their friends in the unions when they tried to kill off Ryanair.

HUGH MCDERMOTT

THE RISE, GLASNEVIN, DUBLIN 9

Economy demands attention

* As an Irishman (of the emigration generation) living overseas, I have watched events in Ireland with detached but personal interest over the last 30 years.

From the highs of the Celtic Tiger to the current lows, I have admired both the exuberance with which we embraced the boom years and the fortitude with which we face the downturn. But throughout all of this I have been perplexed that nobody has been held to account for the events which created the current crisis – politicians, leaders of industry, bureaucrats have all washed their hands and divested accountability.

It would seem a topic that should interest and energise all until the burden is equally shared and accountability sheeted home. But it seems a Garth Brooks concert is a more consuming issue. An issue which can be fixed by buying a DVD, unlike the economic crisis.

SEAMUS FRENCH

MAIDA VALE, LONDON

Conflict areas need flight paths

* The downing of Malaysian Airline MH17, with the resulting deaths of all passengers and its crew, must call in to question the sense of having flight paths over conflict areas.

On a recent trip to South-East Asia I noticed the on-board flight map showed that the route took us directly over Iraq. I was aware that a sectarian conflict between Shia and Sunni Muslims was been carried out many thousands of feet below us and that it was likely they did not have weapons sophisticated enough to down a plane.

However, the horrific tragedy in Ukraine shows there is an urgent need to risk-assess each and every flight path that crosses a conflict zone. Flight times and travel costs should never come into the equation when human life is at stake.

JOHN BELLEW

PAUGHANSTOWN, DUNLEER, CO LOUTH

Obama’s promise has fallen flat

* In 2008, President Obama declared “We can do better.”

Today I see a Russian Bear so far out of its cage that it’s now downing passenger airlines; the Israeli Defence Forces entering Gaza after a nine-year hiatus; Assad of Syria using chemical weapons at will; and al-Qa’ida trying to give birth to a new nation in central Iraq.

If this is better, I wonder is there any way we can go back to what was allegedly worse?

JOE CAULFIELD

CO OFFALY

Celebrating Seamus Heaney

* I am delighted to see that alongside the usual political debates, this year’s MacGill Summer School in Glenties, which opens this Sunday, July 20 and runs till Friday, July 25, is celebrating the poet Seamus Heaney.

I remember, after his untimely death, reading the actress Bronagh Gallagher’s beautiful tribute in your paper, about her perfect late-night meeting with her childhood hero Seamus Heaney and his wife, Marie, which left her floating and charmed and which brought tears to my eyes. I only wished I had met this wonderful human being who charmed so many.

As the perfect meeting came to the perfect end, her hero said: “I must take my lovely wife home, Bronagh.”

This said it all.

BRIAN MC DEVITT

ARDCONNAILL, GLENTIES, CO DONEGAL

Ringsend chimneys must go!

* I would agree with Brian Brennan’s letter concerning the chimneys in Ringsend. They have served their need and are now redundant, so get rid. The Shelly Banks and the South Bull Wall area is very nice for a stroll, of which I had the pleasure recently.

I was surprised to see a building on the wall known as the ‘Half Moon Swimming & Water Polo Club’. On the day in question there was plenty of activity from lunchtime strollers, swimmers and windsurfers.

TERRY O’CONNOR

ABBEYVALE LAWN, SWORDS, CO DUBLIN

Life sentences really are for life

* The article on life sentences by barrister James McDermott in today’s newspaper (‘We need a proper debate on life sentences’) gives the impression that when a life sentence prisoner is released on temporary release/’parole,’ they ‘. . . remain free indefinitely’ unless they commit a further offence or fail to fulfil any release conditions. The piece ignores the fact that life-sentenced prisoners are (a) prepared for their release on ‘parole’ and (b) supervised for the rest of their lives by a probation officer.

In that sense, while it is true that most people who receive a life sentence will be released from the custodial part of their sentence at some stage, the sanction does remain in effect after release, as evidenced by their ongoing supervision.

Last year (2013) the Probation Service supervised 76 life-sentence prisoners in the community. Probation officers supervising these men and women perform a dual role: helping the ex-prisoner to reintegrate in their community and avoid further reoffending, and supervising them to ensure they adhere to the conditions attached to their early release.

In this way, we help to contribute to improved community safety, while ensuring that release conditions are adhered to and that life-sentenced prisoners have an opportunity to prove themselves, under supervision, after they have served an appropriate length of time in custody.

VIVIAN GEIRAN

DIRECTOR, THE PROBATION SERVICE

SMITHFIELD, DUBLIN 7

‘Romance’ may be stretching it

* The TV page on Wednesday 16 described the movie ‘Warlock’ as ‘romance’. A saloon being set on fire, cowboys shooting each other left right and centre, indeed I don’t know if the ‘chap’ even gets to kiss the girl. Ah yes, you can’t beat a bit of romance!

TOM GILSENAN

BEAUMONT D9

Irish Independent

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July 18, 2014

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I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. A hot day

ScrabbleMarywins, but gets over 400. perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.

Obituary:

Elaine Stritch – obituary

Elaine Stritch was a ‘femme formidable’ of Broadway who partied with as much energy as she performed on stage

Elaine Stritch in 2005

Elaine Stritch in 2005 Photo: REX

8:38PM BST 17 Jul 2014

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Elaine Stritch, the American actress, who has died aged 89, was the femme formidable of Broadway, famous for her foghorn voice and deadpan comic timing, and notorious for her filthy temper and “cut-the-crap” frankness; but like many who adopt an abrasive outer shell, underneath there beat a softer heart.

Brassy, skyscraper tall and with a voice once described as “like a corncrake wading through Bourbon — on the rocks”, Elaine Stritch was a natural scene-stealer. Not strikingly beautiful, though with wondrously long and shapely legs, there was no one quite like her in showbusiness.

Elaine Stritch in 2008 (REX)

In Britain, where she scored an instant hit as Mimi Paragon, the cruise ship hostess in Noël Coward’s Sail Away, she became everyone’s favourite American actress. She will be best remembered for the long-running 1970s BBC sitcom, Two’s Company, in which she played a rich, demanding American in London, opposite Donald Sinden as Robert, her plummy-voiced butler.

But it was on the Broadway stage that she began her career and where she continued to perform on and off for six decades in comedies and musical drama. She understudied Ethel Merman in Call Me Madam; and brought the house down in Pal Joey singing Zip in the famous 1946 revival. Stephen Sondheim gave her one of his greatest songs, Here’s to the Ladies Who Lunch, in Company, in which she played beady-eyed lush Joanne in the original 1970 production. One reviewer noted that “she can race through the gears from a savage purr to an air-raid siren howl in five seconds without ever losing a note of the melody”.

Elaine Stritch and Donald Sinden in Two’s Company (REX)

Elaine Stritch partied with as much energy as she performed. She knocked it back with such dedicated topers as Judy Garland and Jackie Gleason. “Elaine, I never thought I’d say this, but goodnight!” said Judy Garland as she made an 8am exit from one marathon session. She dated John F Kennedy, Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra and even Rock Hudson, for whom she ditched Ben Gazzara — a “bum rap”, she confessed.

The diva of the put-down, Elaine Stritch never learned the art of turning the other cheek. She always had the last word. “I’m sorry about what I said to you earlier today,” an interviewer heard her tell an assistant. “I meant every word.”

Yet underneath this spiky carapace there lurked a more fragile personality, at once addicted to, yet terrified of, performing — a woman who fought a long-running battle with the bottle which nearly destroyed her altogether.

The youngest of three daughters, Elaine Stritch was born on February 2 1925 into an upper-middle-class Roman Catholic family in suburban Detroit. Her uncle Samuel was Cardinal Stritch of Chicago; her father a senior executive in Ford Motors. She was educated at a convent where “you daren’t speak in the lavatory and you bathed in your nightgown”.

Her more conventional elder sisters left school and got married, but Elaine’s tastes tended towards the bohemian. As a teenager she accompanied the family’s black maid, Carrie, to “Black and Tan” clubs, where she became familiar with “down and dirty” blues such as I Want a Long Time Daddy, which she sang without understanding the lyrics. She tasted her first whisky sour aged 13 and wanted more.

Her father sent her, aged 17, to New York, where she lived in a convent and studied acting at the New School in Manhattan. A contemporary of Walter Matthau, Tony Curtis and Marlon Brando, she made her student stage debut as a tiger. She “dated” Brando — nothing more. When, after a night on the town, he took her back to his place, went to the bathroom, and reappeared in his pyjamas, the teenage Elaine Stritch shot straight back to the convent. “I kissed like a crazy woman,” she recalled. “But I was a virgin until I was 30. Somebody’d touch my breast, and I’d think I was pregnant.”

She was immediately successful. In 1945 she played the parlourmaid in The Private Life of the Master Race and, in 1946, Pamela Brewster in Loco and Miss Crowder in Made in Heaven. After Three Indelicate Ladies and The Little Foxes, she appeared in the review Angel in the Wings singing “Bongo, bongo, bongo, I don’t want to leave the Congo…”. In 1949 she played the part of Joan Farrell in Yes, M’Lord. Having kicked her heels as an understudy to Ethel Merman in the Broadway production of Call Me Madam, she left a show-stopping role in Pal Joey to do the Merman part on tour — to enthusiastic reviews.

After that she starred in shows by Irving Berlin, Noël Coward, Stephen Sondheim and Edward Albee, and was directed by such figures as Erwin Piscator, George Abbott, Harold Clurman and Hal Prince. Coward called her “Stritchie” and, after rescuing her from the flop musical Goldilocks (1958), gave her the lead in Sail Away, in which she sang Why Do the Wrong People Travel?

Elaine Stritch with Noel Coward in 1962 (REX)

In his diaries, Coward saw her more vulnerable side: “Poor darling Stritch with all her talents is almost completely confused about everything. She is an ardent Catholic and never stops saying f*** and Jesus Christ. She is also kind, touching and loyal and, fortunately, devoted to me.” After “the Master’s” death, she attended his memorial service wearing a bright red blazer, and mistook Yehudi Menuhin for a busker friend of Coward’s.

Elaine Stritch began her film career inauspiciously with Scarlet Hour (1956). After attending a matinee, Richard Burton told her: “Halfway through your last number I almost had an orgasm.” “Almost?” she shrieked reprovingly. She contributed compelling performances to the 1957 remake of A Farewell to Arms, and Providence (1970). In 1971 she was offered a contract by 20th Century Fox but turned it down, not wishing to be typecast as the new Eve Arden — the wisecracking girlfriend who never gets her man. Later she appeared in such films as September (1988) and Cocoon (1990),

Elaine Stritch in Two’s Company (REX)

On television, Elaine Stritch starred in the 1948 domestic comedy Growing Paynes, the short-lived 1960 sitcom My Sister Eileen, and co-starred as the star’s mother in The Ellen Burstyn Show (1986). She was a member of the supporting comedy troupe on the 1949 show Jack Carter and Company, a comic switchboard operator on the 1956 variety series Washington Square, and Peter Falk’s secretary in The Trials of O’Brien (1965).

Coward brought her to London in 1962 in Sail Away, and she returned in 1972 with Sondheim’s Company, winning more ecstatic reviews. She remained in London for several years, making her second home in the Savoy Hotel. Of her barnstorming performance in Tennessee Williams’s Small Craft Warnings, one reviewer described her “bashing through the play like a truck driver in a garage full of Minis”. “I love asking the way in London,” she told an interviewer. “A man actually left his shop to show me where to go. I thought ‘I’m not that attractive and I don’t look like a hooker, so what’s in it for him?’ I finally realised he was simply good-mannered.”

Elaine Stritch earlier this year (WALTER MCBRIDE)

By now she had triumphantly shed the title of the “oldest virgin on Broadway”, having lost her virginity aged 30 to the Fifties film star Gig Young, to whom she was briefly engaged before ditching him for Ben Gazzara. This was fortunate, as Young went on to experiment with LSD and ended up shooting his fourth wife and himself. Less percipient was her decision to get rid of Gazzara when she unwisely fell in love with Rock Hudson — well-known in green room circles as a rampant homosexual.

Eventually, in 1973 and aged 47, she met and married John Bay, her co-star in Small Craft Warnings. When they got engaged, Elaine Stritch called home to ask her father whether she should bring her fiancé home to see if he approved of him. “No, just marry him,” came the reply. “Don’t let him get away.” The marriage lasted a happy 10 years, until Bay died of cancer.

Since her early years Elaine Stritch had suffered from stage fright and, when prayers did not do the trick, she quelled her nerves with alcohol. By the late 1970s her opening gambit at every watering hole was “I’d like four martinis and a floor plan”. Sacked from shows and thrown out of clubs, she failed to stop drinking even after she became diabetic. But after suffering a severe attack in the hallway of a New York hotel (from which she was saved only because a passing waiter happened to be carrying a Pepsi), she went on the wagon and never touched another drop.

In 2002 she made a triumphant return on Broadway in her one-woman retrospective of her career, Elaine Stritch At Liberty, co-written with John Lahr, which played to sell-out audiences at London’s Old Vic the following year. “There’s good news and bad news,” she told her audience. “The good: I have a sensational acceptance speech for a Tony. The bad: I’ve had it for 45 years.” In a typical Stritchian postscript, when she really did make the speech after being awarded a Tony for her performance, it was so long that the orchestra cut her off in mid-flow. Afterwards she gave an angry, tearful press conference. The show also won her the Drama Desk award for best solo performance and a nomination for the Olivier Award for her performance at the Old Vic.

In 2003 she was made a “Living Landmark” of New York City for her contributions to Broadway, and in 2010-11 she appeared in a Broadway revival of A Little Light Music. She was the subject of a documentary film, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, released earlier this year.

Elaine Stritch, born February 2 1925, died July 17 2014

Guardian:

I am deeply worried to see the change in public opinion in favour of Lord Falconer’s bill for assisted dying (Report, 14 July). If I had not had the privilege to be the sister of Baroness Jane Campbell, who has SMA (spinal muscular atrophy) and was never expected to live beyond early childhood, I would probably have voted for a change in the law that would allow the terminally ill to choose when to end their lives. But I have witnessed the power and strength of the human spirit in the most impossible circumstances. There were occasions when Jane would have fitted the criteria of only six months or less to live, and once we were told that even if she survived she would have no quality of life. We did not give up on her, although it would have been easier to at times. Instead we found the courage to give her what she needed for self-worth and strength to pull through.

Jane did not need our pity and a quick fix to end her life but a belief that we valued and loved her regardless of all our sacrifice and suffering. I hope that the supporters of this bill take time to listen to those who found ways to deal with the suffering that is always part of life. In Jane’s own words: “I want life to have value and meaning until its natural end. If you have a terminally ill or disabled friend or family member, don’t give in to their despair. Support them with everything you have to make the best of whatever time they have left.” Believe me, it’s the only way to protect the human spirit.
Sharon Campbell
Dorking, Surrey

• Ann Farmer (Letters, 15 July) seems concerned that to debate assisted dying gives the message that we don’t value the lives of people with disabilities. However, this is to muddy the waters, as disability is not an issue in the assisted dying bill. It only applies to people with a terminal illness who are not expected to live for more than six months. And of course the bill is not saying that we don’t value terminally ill people. It is saying that we care about and respect them enough to give them the right to choose what happens to them. Many terminally ill people may choose to live on as long as possible. Many others may choose to end their lives a little earlier to avoid some of the likely consequences of their terminal illness, which might include severe pain, mental deterioration or physical indignity. It is cruel and inhumane not to give terminally ill people – which one day could be any of us – the choice.
Richard Mountford
Tonbridge, Kent

• One of the things about legislation is that over a generation or so it weaves its way into the DNA of a nation and gradually redefines what a society finds acceptable. In recent decades this has happened very healthily with legislation that has moved us away from racial and gender discrimination.

While it’s possible to frame legislation that prevents uncaring, unscrupulous, greedy or even just tired relatives from bringing about a death, what the law can’t do is legislate about those who regard themselves as having no more to contribute to life and feel themselves to be in the way. It isn’t difficult to foresee a culture emerging where assisted dying, introduced as a compassionate choice for a relatively small proportion of patients, becomes an option “because it’s there” – dare I say it, in the same sort of way that abortion, which again was a compassionate response for an emergency situation, has become an acceptable, if still emotionally painful, option.

Thus human life becomes a commodity that can be thrown away once it’s inconvenient or no longer wanted. It’s a small step, and not a “slippery slope”, then to judgments – even self-judgments – being made about the value of a life, and the creation of a culture in which those with disabilities find themselves to be more trouble than they’re worth.

I have seen relatives and friends I love suffer agonising deaths with every last shred of dignity gone. But by no means are all deaths like that – most aren’t. While the relaxation of laws against assisted dying could bring loving relief to such situations, the commodification of human life would demean and impair us all.
Rev John James
Highbridge, Somerset

• Polly Toynbee (Comment, 15 July) should be reassured. Recent exchanges in the British Medical Journal confirm that more than 98% of deaths in the UK are acceptably peaceful. The spectre of this entry into the unknown as being a torture chamber is the product of understandable fear, fanned by others in a classical genesis of hysteria. We will continue to work toward better care and treatment at the end of life, especially for the 2% who have the hardest time. There is no balanced argument for the radical change which is being requested as if it is the only civilised way forwards – 98% and aiming for better is a score to be pleased with.
David Jolley
Willow Wood Hospice, Ashton under Lyne

• Two of your contributors talk about difficulties in accessing painkillers at the end of life. I work in palliative medicine and would like to reassure them that there is no limit to the dosage of morphine if somebody needs it. The biggest barrier to good palliative care is lack of education in the medical and nursing professions. Large-scale programmes are trying to address this. In my experience the numbers of people who die in pain are extremely tiny. Good symptom control should be a given for anyone at the end of life. It is not that difficult. Those who support assisted dying should be rallying around the cash-strapped palliative care services so that all terminally ill people can access good-quality care.
Dr Ruth Burke
Watford, Hertfordshire

• I lost both my parents to cancer. I would happily trust independent hospice staff to make an end-of-life decision – thankfully this is where my parents finished their lives. Prior to this they were NHS patients when New Labour introduced “just-in-time” managerial practices. The doctors/nurses were employed on a casualised contractual basis and would write prescriptions without consulting patient notes, so we kept our own notes of which drugs had adverse effects to stop them being re-prescribed. My father asked me to pursue a complaint about his poor treatment. His file went missing for four months and by the time his file got to the parliamentary health ombudsman it had been edited of all negative data.

I could never trust an assisted dying decision to the careerists who preside over the health service as managerial fiefdoms and who deliberately slow down and ration treatment access. “Assisted dying” would simply become another more hideous rationing device.
Gavin Lewis
Manchester

It is no surprise to read in Patrick Butler’s report (Bedroom tax has forced tenants to cut back on food, 16 July) that the Department for Work and Pensions now finds that 523,000 tenants have been unable to meet rent arrears due to housing-benefit caps. It was predicted in all the debates about the Welfare Reform Act 2012 in parliament but ignored by the coalition. For example, Lord Best, president of the Local Government Association, said: “A £500 cap will plunge a family with three children living in Hampstead into poverty, with only, in this example, £150 per week left for food, clothing, ever-rising fuel bills and the rest, instead of more than £300 as at present. It is not their fault that rents are so high in much of southern England.”

Additionally, since April 2013, 244 councils have demanded between 8.5% and 20% of council tax from the poorest households. Inability to pay the tax can lead to magistrates triggering the council’s powers to enforce the arrears, adding court costs of up to £125, and bailiffs may be sent in, adding their extortionate fees of up to £420.

The DWP is not the only government department knowingly oppressing the poorest citizens of the UK with unmanageable debt. The Treasury, the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Communities and Local Government pile in with equal callousness.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty

• The government’s new report on the impact of the spare room subsidy –or bedroom tax – makes for worrying reading. The analysis has revealed that a staggering 60% of tenants affected by this welfare reform have been unable to meet their basic housing costs since having their benefits reduced. Although one in five claimants has registered an interest in downsizing, shortages of smaller properties mean that just 4.5% of tenants had been able to move to a smaller home. As a result, some have no choice but to cut back on food and energy, and others are running up debts through credit cards and payday loans.

As part of a charity supporting people in financial need in the UK, we at Turn2us know that these findings echo the experiences of our users – over a third of whom are social housing tenants. Many people tell us they’ve had to choose between heating their homes and buying food for their families, or have turned to high-cost lenders in their desperation.

We’re also concerned by the recent government figures showing that almost two-thirds of councils have not paid their total discretionary housing payment allocation to tenants. Funding for the payment was increased to help people affected by benefit changes including the spare room subsidy, so it’s vital that this additional support is accessed by those in need.

With the gap between income and living costs widening for an increasing number of people, it’s important that they be made aware of the support available to them. Anyone who is struggling can use our free benefits calculator and grants search at turn2us.org.uk to see if they are eligible for any additional financial support. Our website also contains more information about the spare room subsidy and how to apply for discretionary housing payments.

With a number of tenants now facing increasing costs, it’s crucial that they get all the help that they need.
Alison Taylor
Director, Turn2us

etty

Thank you for your full, informative and entertaining coverage of the World Cup. It’s been interesting to return to the Sport section of 12 June.  Congratulations to Dominic Fifield, the only one of your correspondents to predict correctly the two nations that would contest the final.  He was the only one to give Germany credit, the favourites being Argentina and Brazil, with eight and seven nominations respectively. Also commendation to David Hytner, the only one of your 10 correspondents to have the courage correctly to predict England’s exit at the group stage.
Christopher Moore
York

• The alleged global threat of Islamic terrorism can be put into context by the fact that over 100,000 US citizens travelled to the World Cup finals where, despite there being supporters from Iran, Algeria and Nigeria, there was no trouble between “the Great Satan” and Muslim supporters. Indeed, Iran’s fans included Jews from Israel’s 90,000-strong Iranian-descended community. Brazil proved that people of different nations and creeds bond once removed from pot stirrers trying to make enemies of them for their own aggrandisement.
Mark Boyle
Johnstone, Renfrewshire

• How did the Guardian manage to award fewer marks to Germany than Argentina? Perhaps you were also part of the panel deciding who should get the golden ball?
Hugh Burchard
Bristol

“You don’t grow up with a surname that means ‘Pig-climber’ without developing a thick skin” (G2, 15 July). This a common misunderstanding. As a surname, of course, Schweinsteiger doesn’t “mean” anything, but its etymology is not from the current verb “steigen”, meaning to climb, but from an old word, “Steige”, meaning enclosure. So he’s a “Pig-enclosure” –which probably still indicates how tough he is and determined to defend his area.
Neil Williamson
Wilmslow, Cheshire

I do despair when coverage of the census of swans (Report, 15 July) trumps coverage of the Durham Miners gala – 100,000 people fill the streets to celebrate working-class values with a huge parade of brass and silver bands and banners from trade unions and community groups, and you choose not to print a word or a picture. You print articles on royal occasions and upper-class sporting events but ignore the largest coming-together in the UK of trade unionists and community groups. Your editorials regularly point out the disaffection of the “left behinds” – yet you fail to report splendid speeches promoting values and ideas that would address that disconnection of voters.
Will Haughan and Jill Dixon
Hetton le Hole, Tyne and Wear

• Critics of Radio 3 (Letters, 17 July) overlook the station’s Through the Night programme. Six hours of a wide range of classical music with minimal chat and no audience participation available via iPlayer for those who can’t stay up late.
Derrick Cameron
Stoke-on-Trent

• Jane Harvey (Letters, 16 July) omits to mention that Mme Truc’s cat’s name was Jerôme – the nickname my pupils gave me when I was a French teacher in the 1970s! At least the cartoons must have made some impression on them.
Ian Arnott
Peterborough

• Paul Roper (Letters, 17 July) can be reassured that the cliche writers will keep going even when running on empty.
Philip Morris
Macclesfield

• Cameron’s reshuffle was always going to be massive. He’s opted for his favoured right wing. But the likes of Dominic Grieve have come away empty-handed. He’ll be disappointed with that.
Mike Hine
Kingston on Thames, Surrey

• Is it true that Michael Gove is setting up a new inspection team to scrutinise cabinet appointments called Ousted?
Malcolm Rivers
Isleworth, Middlesex

• Thor to be recast as a woman (Shortcuts, G2, 17 July)? I hope she has a large collection of cows.
Steve Drayton
Newcastle upon Tyne

Independent:

Times:

Sir, The crux of the debate on assisted suicide is whether it is possible to grant some people the right to assistance in suicide without exposing others to subtle, malicious pressure to exercise it.

In 2011 Lord Falconer’s commission stipulated that a safe assisted-suicide framework required, first, safeguards “to ensure that the choice of an assisted death could never become an obligation and that a person could not experience pressure from another person to choose an assisted death without the abuse being detected”. Second, there had to be provision of “the best end of life care available”, including staff who would fully investigate the circumstances and motivations of any person seeking an assisted death and alternative options for treatment and care”.

In her book about the treatment of the elderly, Not Dead Yet (2008), Baroness Neuberger reported that in the UK 500,000 elderly people were being abused, two-thirds by relatives or friends. The Stafford Hospital scandal revealed that abuse of vulnerable patients is not limited to amateurs but extends to healthcare professionals.

So, we have no reason to suppose that we can “ensure” the absence of undue pressure to opt for assisted suicide and the presence of compassionate staff. Indeed, there is good empirical reason to doubt that such things can ever be guaranteed.

Judging by his own commission’s criteria, then, Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying bill is, while well meaning, dangerously imprudent.

Professor Nigel Biggar
Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology, University of Oxford

Sir, Debate on assisted dying has focused on the practicalities and unintended consequences rather than the basic moral issues. Any change in the law must ensure that the person asking for assistance must be well informed, rational and have a sustained wish to die and that is what legislation is about. Similarly the interests of vulnerable people who might be subjected to pressure to end their lives must be protected and again this is the job of the law. The early experiences from Oregon, the Netherlands and Switzerland are reassuring from this point of view although opponents to change cite selective data to the contrary and point out that many of those using assisted suicide in these places feel that they are a burden on others.

More important than these practicalities is the moral issue. Is the value of a life greater than the value given to autonomy and suffering? Even the archbishops seem shy about discussing the sanctity of life and few have dared to debate whether all lives are of equal value. Is a healthy child’s life as valuable as that of an old man with severe dementia?

Since any change to the law is likely to lead to further changes — the inevitable and maybe desirable slippery slope — surely the moral debate should come first. I hope the bishops and lords give plenty of time to this and not too much to personal anecdotes or details of individual suffering. It should be possible to get the practicalities right in due course but any changes in the law should reflect changes in moral attitudes of the general public.

Professor Duncan Geddes
Imperial College and Royal Brompton Hospital

Sir, You cite a study by Professor Linda Woodhead in 2013 (“Most believers back assisted dying despite opposition of church leaders”, July 16). The only conclusion to be safely drawn from this poll is that complex discussions on euthanasia cannot be effectively conducted through online surveys. One question defined euthanasia as “the termination of a person’s life, in order to end suffering”. This skewed definition was accompanied by a question which failed to define the law pertaining to assisted suicide at the time and focused on the risk of prosecution to loved ones. Presented with such a definition and question it is a surprise that the figure for those advocating assisted suicide is as low as 70 per cent.

The Rev Arun Arora
Director of Communications
Archbishops’ Council

Sir, I am delighted that a number of opponents of the Assisted Dying bill have said that they will not oppose its second reading in the House of Lords, citing the Supreme Court judgment which calls for Parliament to address this issue (letter, July 15).

I hope this heralds a constructive debate which will consider the bill clause by clause in line with public opinion, and that will focus not on whether the law should change, but on how it should change.

Lord Joffe
House of Lords

Sir, I alter my opinion daily on this issue. For many years I was a social worker with the elderly and saw people who made me think I would be prosecuted if I kept a dog alive in that condition. I also met families, and neighbours and GPs who urged me to use (non-existent) powers to force someone into residential care because they were causing “so much worry”. No legislation will ever give a satisfactory solution to every scenario. Parliament, physicians and the Church are looking from the wrong angle. Now in my own “third age” I want to be sure I will be allowed to die. When extreme trauma or debilitating illness robs me of the pleasure of living, consider “me” — not survival rates — and let me go.

Dorothy Clifton
Middle Aston, Oxon

A ledcturer compares the well-staffed university of the past with the threadbare institutions of today

Sir, It is not surprising that student satisfaction with university courses is low today. When I joined preclinical veterinary sciences as a lecturer there were 17 academic staff, 16 technical staff and two secretaries. We had time for research and preparation as well as teaching. The annual intake was 60 students.

In the past ten years the intake has risen to 180; academic staff are now four and a part-timer, and seven technical staff. Administrators have increased exponentially. Small group teaching is a thing of the past, and in the reduced number of practical classes students are lucky to have a staff student ratio of 1:30.

Staff have been replaced by computers but while computers are a superb resource they cannot teach for the fundamental reason that they do not listen. Worst is when a series of lectures is provided only online. The students have no interaction with the lecturer or with each other. And for all this the students now pay so much more.

Dr Susan Kempson

Haddington, E Lothian

A reader’s father died 47 years after the war experience which caused his death

Sir, The impending commemoration of the outbreak of the Great War is a reminder that there are many ways to die in war. In my father’s case 47 years separated the event from the cause. He died from a growth in his lung. The consultant asked if my father had anything to do with aircraft because they had found traces of a tar from burning aircraft fuel in the growth.

In 1945 my father entered a burning RAF plane and assisted his MO to amputate the trapped leg of the pilot before the plane exploded.

Not all those lost are remembered on churchyard memorials “to the fallen” but nonetheless they too paid the ultimate price, and it is good that we should remember all of them.

Alf Menzies

Southport, Merseyside

A new education secretary is a chance to improve headteacher/family relations over the issue of days off school

Sir, Nicky Morgan’s appointment as secretary of state for education is a chance to re-create harmony between home and school. She should free headteachers from requiring parents to apply for permission to absent their children from school for family holidays outside term time. (It is unfortunate that heads did not resist this authoritarian imposition.) Parents find it hard to reconcile school days lost to strikes and the refusal to allow a day off, even for a relative’s funeral.

If heads wish to enhance family values and create harmony between home and school, they should tell Nicky Morgan that they will no longer be responsible for when parents choose their holidays.

charlie naylor

(former headmaster)

Haxby, York

Adrenaline, often mentioned in discussion of slaughter methods, is not carcinogenic

Sir, Princess Alia Al Hussein (letter, July 15) says adrenaline is “accepted as a carcinogen”. Adrenaline is a natural hormone released from the adrenal gland and which is involved in the “fight and flight” response: it is rapidly degraded in blood in a few minutes. It is not carcinogenic, and in any case disappears so quickly from the blood that any released during stress is quickly undetectable.

Levels in the blood at slaughter may be influenced by stunning and this can be used as a surrogate stress marker, but that is a different question.

Professor Ashley Grossman

Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism

Hares are more plentiful than usual in the Hebrides – warmer winter? fewer foxes? less competition from rabbits?

Sir, In this fairly quiet, northwesterly peninsula of Skye called Duirinish the population of brown hares (letter, July 14) appears to be increasing. This may be due to the surprising scarcity of foxes, increasingly warmer weather but perhaps also because there are fewer rabbits than hares locally. The cause and effect of all this surely deserves research. The hares are far from timid.

Michael Austin

Dunvegan, Isle of Skye

Telegraph:

Almost 26,000 primary school children were treated for tooth decay in the past year Photo: Alamy

6:57AM BST 17 Jul 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, points out that most dental extractions under general anaesthesia were performed in dental surgeries rather than hospitals until the mid-Eighties (“Rotten teeth are all the fault of Mum and Dad”).

I used to extract children’s teeth at my dental practice and the procedure, although necessary, appeared bloody and barbaric. The anaesthetist would keep the anaesthetic very light to ensure safe extraction and a rapid recovery. I had to act quickly, often with a child’s eyes open and staring accusingly.

Although I never did, I sometimes wished I could invite the parents of some of these children into the operating room to witness the procedure. As the vast majority of children’s extractions are preventable, their younger offspring might have had a better chance of avoiding similar treatment.

Dr T W Harding (retd)
Stourbridge, Worcestershire

The politics of bishops

SIR – It was an odd image to see the Church of England apparently celebrating a spiritual doctrinal change with glasses of champagne.

It seemed more like a political victory. Was the “prayer” really for God’s guidance, or in the hope that folk would “be reasonable and see it our way”?

Jeremy Brewer
Ashover, Derbyshire

SIR – “It is just wonderful that at last we can move on,” said the Rev Kat Campion-Spall. While I fully support the creation of women bishops, it is only a section of the Anglican Communion in Britain for whom the words “move on” ring true. Churches in the North of the country, whose need for well-staffed parishes is just as great as London’s, find it almost impossible to appoint new incumbents. We are told by our senior clergy that priests in the South find the idea of working “up North” unattractive because of the lack of City-type salaries for their spouses.

Elizabeth Ray
Dalston, Cumberland

Home-grown food

SIR – George Eustice, the farming minister, writes that Britain is 76 per cent self-sufficient in foods that can be produced at home, comparing this to the Thirties, when food self-sufficiency was between 30 and 40 per cent.

His comparison conveniently avoids the years in between. Taking Defra’s own figures, in 1995 Britain was 74 per cent self-sufficient in all food and 87 per cent self-sufficient in food that could be produced at home. So we do have a significant shortfall compared with 20 years ago.

David Baines
Thornbury, Gloucestershire

Alive and kicking

SIR – Bob Champion, the winning jockey of the 1981 Grand National, discovered a few months ago that his profile on Google showed him as having died in 2011.

Several of his fans, including myself, have submitted feedback to Google pointing out its error, as well as calling attention to it via Twitter, but the profile remains unchanged.

It’s in particularly bad taste given Bob’s successful battle against cancer many years ago, which was BG (Before Google). I’m rather hoping that the publicity from a letter in your newspaper will spur them into a correction.

Gabriel Herbert
London W12

Jean-Claude who?

SIR – You report that Jean-Claude Juncker was forced to Google Lord Hill following his nomination as Britain’s representative in Europe, as he had no idea who he was.

Perhaps now Mr Juncker can more easily grasp what the EU electorate thought during his own presidential campaign.

Mary Harrington
London NW1

Wasteful packaging

SIR – Rather than introduce more bins to clog up the back gardens and roadways of this country, at least some of the waste could be prevented by businesses.

Every magazine I subscribe to, from Radio Times and the Spectator to the quarterly offerings of organisations such as English Heritage and the National Trust, now arrives in a non-recyclable plastic bag. Just a few years ago they came in paper envelopes, and could be reused. Since the change to plastic, I have had to buy my own envelopes, the manufacturers of which are the only ones to gain in this shift.

Most of what goes into my black bin is packaging of one sort or another. The Government often makes half-hearted attempts to stem the flow of extra packaging, but without much success.

Nicholas Wightwick
Rossett, Denbighshire

Jam yesterday

SIR – The short answer to Joyce Smith’s question about what jam manufacturers have put into jam (Letters, July 15), is more water: it is cheaper than sugar or fruit.

In the Fifties, solids made up 67 per cent of the composition of jams, making them microbiologically stable. By adding more water, the solids have been reduced and the jams have become microbiologically unstable, hence the need to store them in a fridge.

Peter Hull
Hoo, Kent

By any other name

SIR – One of the brides-to-be listed in the Forthcoming Marriages column was named as “Victoria (Plum), daughter of Mr and Mrs Stewart-White”.

At home, my late father was nicknamed Atna (all talk, no action).

James Logan
Portstewart, Co Londonderry

Teach engineering well to inspire girls and boys

SIR – Mary Kenny is right to encourage students to study subjects they enjoy, but I balked at her reasoning that it’s innate biology that prevents women from engaging with science. Britain produces 51,000 science, technology, engineering and maths graduates each year — we need 87,000.

My charity, the James Dyson Foundation, is working with five schools in Bath, including a girls’ school. I set them design briefs such as delivering aid after a natural disaster or making life easier for an ageing population. It gets them thinking with their hands and their brains, using science and mathematics to solve problems practically. The result is that these girls suddenly want to be engineers – a new GCSE class of 30 has been added to the timetable. When it is taught well enough, technology inspires boys and girls alike.

Sir James Dyson
Malmesbury, Wiltshire

SIR – Mary Kenny claims that science lacks narrative and is not about people. Engineering is driven by the imperative to solve the challenges faced by humankind and to enable us to live, communicate, work and socialise more easily. It is invariably a team activity, involving specialists from a range of disciplines working together. Engineers are analytical, creative, curious and questioning, and many women show these characteristics in abundance.

Britain has the lowest proportion of women engineers in Europe (8.7 per cent), whereas in countries such as Latvia, 30 per cent of professional engineers are women. There is a perception problem in Britain about engineering that is inhibiting women from going into it as a career.

Engineering and science are central to everything from sunscreens to skyscrapers, clean water to comet chasing. The idea that these fields lack good stories is laughable, as is the notion that women are interested only in novels.

Professor Helen Atkinson
Vice President, R

Sherlock Holmes needn’t have feared the jellyfish

Despite its murderous activities in Conan Doyle’s adventure, a sting from the lion’s mane jellyfish is rarely fatal

A lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) in the White Sea off the coast of Karelia, Russia

A lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) in the White Sea off the coast of Karelia, Russia  Photo: Alamy

6:59AM BST 17 Jul 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – You mention the lion’s mane jellyfish and Sherlock Holmes’s encounter with it. “Cyanea capillata is the miscreant’s full name, and he can be as dangerous to life as, and far more painful than, the bite of the cobra,” the detective declares.

But even Conan Doyle, as a medical man, was aware that this jellyfish, though its sting is very painful, rarely kills. He took good care to explain from the outset that its victim had a weak heart. He also noted that only by a fluke would it be present in British waters.

Jellyfish are to be seen and not touched, but we need not go in fear of them.

Elizabeth Thompson
London NW3

Cameron’s reshuffle is an achievement for a PM held back by the Coalition

The Conservatives can rightly claim to be the most meritocratic British political party

David Cameron arrives at Downing St after cutting short his holiday

The Prime Minister has conducted fewer reshuffles than any predecessor since James Callaghan Photo: REUTERS

7:00AM BST 17 Jul 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – For a party that is constantly portrayed as being overwhelmingly posh, prosperous, old-fashioned, male and white, David Cameron’s appointments have provided for the promotion of Conservative MPs first elected in each of the last seven parliaments stretching back to 1983, and from a diversity of backgrounds, many of them humble.

This is a remarkable achievement for a Prime Minister who has conducted fewer reshuffles than any predecessor since James Callaghan in the mid-Seventies, and is hugely constrained by the Coalition.

Many of the newly promoted ministers are Eurosceptic, free-market, independent-thinking Thatcherites who entered politics to reduce the role of the state, introduce lower taxes, improve state education and above all, increase social mobility.

Having produced the first Jewish prime minister and first female prime minister, the Tories can rightfully claim to be the most meritocratic British political party. But the leadership must take care to ensure its policies remain as inclusive as its political representation and membership.

Philip Duly
Haslemere, Surrey

SIR – David Cameron’s reshuffle may, as many have suggested, be designed to increase his chance of re-election. Its result, however, will depend on the performance over the next 10 months of those promoted. That is a ridiculously short time to expect them to make any changes of real or lasting value.

Richard Shaw
Dunstable, Bedfordshire

SIR – Anne Rose posits that the Prime Minister should be thinking of what is best for the country, not what will win him the most votes. He has thought about it and rightly concluded that a Conservative majority Government is best for the country. To this end, he’s made bold and pragmatic ministerial appointments that better represent our society, reflect public opinion and present the Conservatives as a diverse, modern, winning team to the electorate. I’d vote for them.

Adrian Stockwell
Farnham, Surrey

SIR – I am very disappointed that Michael Gove has been moved from education, as I believe that he did an excellent job. One way to measure this is by looking at the people he upset: the teaching unions and the Lib Dems.

David Miller
Maidenhead, Berkshire

SIR – Has anyone else noticed that the Department for Education has been staffed largely by Nicks? Nick Gibb on schools, Nick Boles on “Skills” (whatever that means), and Nicky Morgan as Education Secretary. What is the significance of this?

Daniel Deasy
Oxford

Irish Times:

Sir, – “Kenny prioritises geography over gender” (Editorial, July 16th). Shouldn’t the Taoiseach in a mature democracy prioritise talent over both? – Yours, etc,

PAT CLOSE,

Ballymoney Road,

Ballymena,

Co Antrim.

Sir, – There is a solution to the problem of the small number of women Ministers of State caused by the Taoiseach “prioritising geography over gender”.

Since independence there have been so few women TDs that the only conclusion that can be reached is that political parties, and we as an electorate, have prioritised just about everything over gender when selecting candidates and voting.

The next election is, therefore, an appropriate time to change priorities and rectify the gender imbalance. – Yours, etc,

ANTHONY LEAVY,

Shielmartin Drive,

Sutton,

Dublin 13.

Sir,– I was shocked that Enda Kenny would appoint a team with no fluency in Irish to head the department with responsibility for Gaeltacht affairs. Now English will be imposed on every ministerial meeting related to Gaeltacht affairs.

Now Irish-language organisations will have English forced on them when dealing with the Minister of State responsible for the Irish language. The working language of this department now moves from Irish to English.

What a policy move that is. One swift blow to remove a language from a department set up to support that very language.

The Taoiseach should reflect on this and reverse his decision, as one would be left with the impression that Fine Gael policy is now to downgrade and dismantle spoken Irish wherever it can. Surely that cannot be the case? – Yours, etc,

RÓISÍN LAWLESS,

Ráth Chairn,

Áth Buí­,

Co na Mí.

Sir, – I am somewhat taken aback by Éamon Ó Cuív’s preoccupation with the inability of the new Minister of State for the Gaeltacht to speak Irish fluently.

Perhaps somebody in the media might enquire of Mr Ó Cuív as to how you say as Gaeilge, “I was a member of the government that bankrupted this country, and my priorities seem to be strangely askew”.- Yours, etc,

TOM O’CONNOR,

Riverchapel,

Gorey,

Co Wexford.

Sir, – The greatest single challenge to a person in mastering a language, any language, is a change in linguistic behaviour that allows for confidence building. Most, but not all, languages require competencies or skills in reading, writing, comprehension, speech and usage.

The challenge for an adult, never mind a busy Minister, will be even greater, but given the right support, direction and opportunity, both of our new Ministers, if they are willing to do so, can significantly improve their Irish language ability over the coming months.

If and when they succeed they will be providing a salutary lesson to the Gaeltacht and saol na Gaeilge in general as it is probably not universally accepted or acknowledged that the survival of Irish as a community language will be largely dependent on people who are speaking in English exclusively today. – Is mise,

VINCENT HOLMES,

Seacrest,

Cnoc na Cathrach,

Galway.

Sir, – Perhaps the Israeli ambassador would like to tell us which military installation the four young children (Front Page, July 17th) blown up while playing on the beach in Gaza were shielding? – Yours, etc,

KATHLEEN FLYNN,

Pinebrook Heights,

Dublin 15.

Sir, – The Israeli Defence Forces drop leaflets on areas of Gaza, in advance of targeting them, to warn people to leave their homes. This, seemingly, absolves them of responsibility when civilians are killed. When asked on RTÉ radio earlier this week where these people were meant to go, an Israeli spokesperson stated that they could go to the beach. Unfortunately, as evidenced by the four children killed on this beach by an Israeli naval bombardment, there is now nowhere safe for the besieged populace to hide. The international community should stand aside no longer and condemn these indiscriminate attacks for what they are – war crimes. – Yours, etc,

RONAN DESMOND,

Fitzroy Avenue,

Drumcondra,

Dublin 3.

Sir, – I am very grateful to the Israeli ambassador for explaining (July 16th) why it is right under international law that so many women and children and innocent civilians of Gaza have had to die at the hand of his country’s armed forces in the past weeks.

I thought that one of the purposes of international law and the various organisations of the United Nations was to protect innocent people. Clearly they have been so structured that they give countries such as Israel free rein to attack civilians. – Yours, etc,

ANDREW

DOYLE CLIFDEN,

Lislevane,

Bandon, Co Cork.

A chara, – Israeli ambassador Boaz Modai puts it very succinctly. Israel is using its military capability to protect its civilian population. Hamas is using its civilian population to protect its military capability. – Is mise,

CIARÁN

Ó RAGHALLAIGH,

College Street,

Cavan.

Sir, – Once again people are calling for a boycott of Israeli goods (July 16th), in response to the inclination of Israel to defend its existence. If it comes to that, let us be fair, and ensure that we also boycott oil imports from the multiplicity of tyrannical regimes in the Middle East. – Yours, etc,

EUGENE TANNAM,

Monalea Park,

Firhouse,

Dublin 24.

Sir, – Martin Mansergh (“Ireland can adapt to either referendum result”, Opinion & Analysis, July 16th) raises the important issue of the upcoming Scottish referendum, only to dismiss both possible outcomes as being easily manageable by the Irish State. This view of benign indifference to our neighbours is the most our fellow Scoti can expect from us, I’m afraid.

Notwithstanding the ties of blood, culture, language, history, climate and whiskey (spelled both ways) that bind us, few here seem to feel that Scotland’s destiny is any business of ours. Apparently it suits neither jurisdiction’s self-delusions to recall that, long before the Scots colonised our northern counties, we had colonised the land of the Picts, entirely obliterating their language and replacing it with our own. Their first king, Cinaed mac Ailpin, was undoubtedly of Gaelic stock.

What should it matter to us now, that the Scots are seeking dominion status, with a form of independence, still under the monarchy of the polyglot Queen Elizabeth? Aren’t we all great pals now and all that?

The answer to that is the question that Alex Salmond is not asking. He is not daring to ask “Who owns Scotland?” The lack of agrarian reform throughout Britain is most noticeable in Scotland, where as much half of the land belongs to 500 individuals and corporations, many of them with no other link to, or interest in, the country. Richard Scott, the 10th Duke of Buccleuch, owns 240,000 acres. This is not a matter of excessive personal indulgence. It is a question of the economic life of the nation.

The divine right of landowners to prohibit development, block hillwalkers, pollute the water supply and resist every effort to reduce greenhouse gases and improve the environment is an unchallengeable fact of Irish political life.

In Scotland the problem is proportionately magnified by the much greater size of the landholdings. If the Scots did choose independence, which seems unlikely, they would face a mountain of problems and bureaucratic difficulties with which London would hope to keep them occupied until North Sea oil ran out.

Global rises in population, and the increasing interconnectedness of all societies, sooner or later will bring us all to a new view of the limits of the rights of private property, and the sooner the better for Scotland, Ireland and the whole world. – Yours, etc,

ARTHUR DEENY,

Sion Hill,

Rock Road,

Blackrock,

Sir, – In Dr Jacky Jones’s “Are health professionals paid too much or not enough?” (Second Opinion, Health + Family, July 16th), she makes a simplistic comparison between the work of psychiatrists and chiropodists that displays an inherent judgment about how we should judge improvements for patients with mental health issues.

Success and progress within the psychiatric field hinges on a whole range of interdependent factors – probably more so than in another other branch of medicine – including patient, condition, environment, social factors and the resources made available, most of which are beyond the control of the doctors and other healthcare professionals.

To reduce this emotive and complicated arena to such a facile argument is unhelpful to discussions surrounding mental health, if not damaging. – Yours etc,

RICHARD SCRIVEN,

Browningstown Park,

Ballinlough,

Cork.

Sir, – Dr Jacky Jones writes of “psychiatrists treating patients for depression for 20 years with no improvement in mental health”. This disseminates dangerously wrong information about depression and its treatment, stigmatises people with depression by implying a doomed prognosis, misrepresents psychiatry and unfairly characterises psychiatrists.

Quite an achievement in a little more than 10 words. – Yours, etc,

Dr AISLING DENIHAN,

Kennedy Road,

Navan,

Co Meath.

Sir, – This week Opposition TDs have expressed righteous anger at funding cuts to charitable bodies, including those which provide vital services to sick and disabled persons in their home. I understand the amounts involved are less than €1 million.

Last week it was disclosed that the Minister for Finance acted against the advice of his officials in granting an exemption from capital gains tax due to be paid by thousands of land owners at a loss to the revenue of €26 million. No TD voiced any principled objection then or later. Does this indicate a lack of joined-up thinking? – Yours, etc,

TOM WALL,

Whitehall Road,

Dublin 12.

Sir, – Patrick Davey (July 17th) makes a helpful observation that the English funding model for universities is not clearly suited to our own higher education institutions.

However, his view that the English model has led to a “dependence on overseas students” is questionable. Moreover, his assertion that such students are “not asked to present with the necessary academic qualifications” is incorrect.

Ireland is a geographically peripheral country with a population base smaller than that of Barcelona. University education is unique among our public services in offering valuable and enriching transnational experiences for students, local communities, and Irish society at large. For generations, students from all over the globe have studied here, and in so doing have contributed to our awareness that – Garth Brooks’s obsession with us notwithstanding – there are many other places in the world apart from our own.

Irish universities operate very strict admissions criteria for international students, where academic qualifications are scrutinised closely and where rigorous standards are applied.

NUI Galway has 3,000 full-time international students from 110 countries around the world. They are most welcome. — Yours, etc,

Prof BRIAN HUGHES,

Dean of International

Affairs,

NUI Galway,

University Road,

Sir, – Does it occur to your readers that if you tried to build the Poolbeg towers today you would never get away it? Various lobby groups would be up in arms about such “eyesores” and their basic plans would never see the light of day. However, try demolishing those two very towers in 2014 and those same groups are the ones lobbying to keep them standing.

I think Dublin should keep this example in mind when it comes to all high-rise developments – give them a chance, they are not all ugly. In fact, tall structures in any cityscape are beautiful – even the industrial ones like the Poolbeg towers. – Yours, etc,

ANDREW MOYNIHAN,

Northbrook Avenue,

Ranelagh,Dublin 6.

Sir, – Sailors from Malahide to Greystones, and probably beyond, use the Poolbeg stacks as navigational markers. It is rumoured that if they are in line, one is on course for Holyhead.

Might I respectfully suggest that a modest sum spent conserving existing structures of historical interest would be a better use of public funds than inflicting a “white elephant” swimming pool on a working harbour (Dún Laoghaire), also of historical interest, which until recently was in close proximity to two sea baths. – Yours, etc,

AJ ROUS,

Shanganagh Road,

Killiney, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Before we all rush to protect the towers at Poolbeg there is a question that first needs an answer. How much will it cost? – Yours, etc,

COLIN ROGAN,

Fortfield Square,

Sir, – Please allow me to thank the many correspondents, supportive and otherwise , who commented on my article (Opinion & Analysis, July 9th).

None of my critics, however, including Gerry Adams, really addressed the issues I raised, with Mr Adams referring to me in terms he considers derogatory, such as “partitionist ” and “revisionist”. Perhaps the Sinn Féin leader might like to debate my specified criticisms with me in public, details to be arranged. – Yours, etc,

JOHN A MURPHY,

Douglas Road,

Cork.

Sir, – At the time of all the excitement about over-70s medical cards, I received a card. Recently we pensioners were informed that, should our pensions be over such an amount, we would lose our medical cards. Though I am now over 80 years, I have lost my card.

Furthermore, I was asked to fill in a form giving details of the whereabouts and amounts of any savings I might have. Why? Who will get this private information? My trust of authorities is low.

I do not have debts. Having sold our family home, I now have a single-bedroomed apartment. Of course I have saved, being a responsible citizen. I pay tax on my savings. I want to be able to afford nursing home care, should I need such in my ancient years.

I have given the authorities details from my birth date, my mother’s maiden name, where I have lived, etc. What security is there for collected data? I am not in any questionable occupation, nor have I money squirreled in banks abroad. There is no secret holiday home tucked away.

I refuse to disclose any more detail of private matters even under the spurious guise of protecting me. If my refusal requires my going to court (at the expense of the authorities) so be it. I’d rather enjoy such an opportunity to expose facts and get answers. Now in my 80s I think I deserve better as a law-abiding citizen. — Yours, etc,

ANGELA McNAMARA,

Lower Kilmacud Road,

Churchtown, Dublin 14.

Sir, – Kathy Sheridan’s article “Garth’s appeal eludes arts elites” was terrific (Opinion & Analysis, July 16th).There is a degree of snobbery of various kinds in a lot of us.

Her inclusion of the critic Carl Wilson’s quote was apt – “It’s always other people following crowds, whereas my own taste reflects my specialness”.

It reminded me of a lady I knew, who, when asked about the decor in her friend’s house responded, “Well it was furnished to her own taste”. Enough said. – Yours, etc,

NORA SCOTT,

Whitehall Road,

Churchtown,

Dublin 14.

Sir, – I would like to refute Gerry Christie’s suggestion (July 15th) that Noddy and Big Ears shared a bed. A reading of the Enid Blyton books shows that they had separate houses. Big Ears did use Noddy’s bed on one occasion when he was sick. Noddy slept on the floor.

I do hope this clarifies matters. – Yours, etc,

ALAN CONLON,

Wheatfield Road,

Dublin 20.

Irish Independent:

In your new role as Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources with responsibility for broadcasting, may I draw your attention to the prime-time slots assigned to the Angelus on RTE1 radio and television?

In my view, religion should be treated as a commodity in the same way as other basic needs. Just as all of us crave food, water, etc, a majority of people have a need to transcend the reality of their daily struggle to survive and to find some deeper meaning to their corporeal existence.

But the State needs to be neutral in its broadcasting policy. The Republic of Ireland is now a multicultural society with myriad religious philosophies and practices. Exclusively promoting one religious sector that propagated an institutional belief system leading to the human rights abuses of the Magdalene laundries, the mother-and-baby homes, illegal adoptions, child sexual and physical abuse and symphysiotomy can only lead to dissent and racial/religious grievances.

The one-minute prime-time slots on RTE1 Radio and RTE1 Television would cost the Catholic Church about €2m per annum if it was asked to pay for such slots. It is unconscionable that the taxpayer should be asked to foot the bill for such promotion.

The Department of Education would also be wise to take a more neutral stance in matters of religion in state-funded schools. In treating religion as a commodity, our classrooms could be rented out to religious groups after school hours and the proceeds could be used to promote special talents such as the arts and sport.

It’s time to review the special status conferred on the Catholic Church by RTE and other State-funded institutions and the collusion in this practice by successive governments. I now call on you, minister, to justify why this policy should continue.

Good luck in your brief.

ANNE O’REILLY, DUNDRUM, DUBLIN 16

NO MERIT IN POOLBEG CHIMNEYS

Sentimental souls talk about the ugly Poolbeg chimneys as iconic landmarks that bring a warm glow of affection when glimpsed from a plane coming in over Dublin Bay. Ahh the chimneys! We’re home.

Aren’t they lucky to be coming home from their holiday? A recent UCC study found that Ireland, despite having similar economic problems to Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece, has by far the highest emigration levels within the EU. And seven out of every 10 Irish people emigrating are in their 20s. For these effective economic deportees, looking down as they fly away from the country that failed them, the Poolbeg chimneys could seem a two-fingered final farewell.

The chimneys have no merit. They belong to a very recent redundant past. Let’s send a signal that we’re looking to a more attractive future and, in doing so, restore the beautiful vista across the bay both north and south. Demolish the monstrosities.

BRIAN BRENNAN, PORTMARNOCK, CO DUBLIN

FILLING THE WORLD CUP VOID

What shall we sports fans do now that the World Cup has come to an end? How shall we fill the void?

I have heard summer has duly arrived and luxurious growth abounds. What exotic collection of lesser-spotted creatures has now taken up residence in the long untended grass, I wonder?

Unfortunately I cannot attend to that matter just yet. The Tour de France is now entering a most crucial and challenging part. Then there is the comprehensive coverage of the British Open Golf Championship. And I haven’t even mentioned the Leinster Football Final yet!

Some environmentalists profess that mowing the aforementioned grass is less than eco-friendly and hampers the greater development of both flora and fauna.

Who am I to disagree?!

TONY WALLACE, LONGWOOD, CO MEATH

DRIVING HOME THE PROBLEM

It was with great amusement that I read that Dublin City Council plans to introduce traffic lights that allow bicycles to proceed 10 seconds or more before the motorised traffic.

Have these people walked around Dublin in the last couple of years? Pedestrians stop to stare when any cyclist stops at traffic lights.

As things are, maybe we should install lights on the “pedestrian” paths to protect the cyclists from those irresponsible walkers!

Another wheeze was in your paper last week: the ‘N’ sign for drivers for two years after passing the driving test. For a restriction to work, it needs to be enforced at a reasonable frequency. Anyone who drives in the cities or the motorways will have seen the frequent learner-plate drivers unaccompanied. The risk of prosecution is obviously so low that it is negligible.

I do not blame the gardai for this; they are obviously undermanned and demoralised, and have their hands more than full preventing crime.

To top it all, I read, again in your paper, that two-thirds of those found guilty of motoring offences in courts do not receive their penalty points because the existing law, that they must bring their driving licences to court, is not enforced. That’s not a “loophole”, but a gaping barn door.

FRANK QUINN, OAKLEY ROAD, RANELAGH, D6

BROOKS FIASCO

Dublin City Manager Owen Keegan has refused to accept any blame for the Garth Brooks concerts fiasco. He said the decision taken was “fair, reasonable and balanced”.

Just like the present state of Dun Laoghaire after his tenure there?

K NOLAN, CARRICK-ON-SHANNON, CO LEITRIM

ORANGE ORDER INVITE

The invitation to our President to attend the Rossnowlagh Orange Order ceremony in Co Donegal poses the question – how often has the queen of England attended Orange Order ceremonies?

RORY O’CALLAGHAN, CEANNT FORT, KILMAINHAM, DUBLIN 8

BUILDING PEACE

When I visited Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory in January of this year, I witnessed first hand the devastation that prolonged occupation is having on Palestinian communities. In Gaza, I witnessed the effects of ongoing cycles of violence and the economic impoverishment of the people by the economic blockade imposed by Israel.

Israel’s military operations in Gaza strike me as ultimately self-defeating for their own security. Israel should recognise that collectively punishing and impoverishing the people of Gaza, including conducting extensive and disproportionate air strikes in dense urban areas, will only create anger and hopelessness among the ordinary people of Gaza.

Such resentment regrettably results in further violence.

The actions of both Hamas and Israel contravene international law. Both sides are acting recklessly and without regard for the safety of either Palestinian or Israeli civilians.

Ultimately, the sort of cyclical violence that we have seen over recent days will only lead to a continuation of the situation whereby millions of Palestinians are impoverished and live without hope and Israeli citizens live in daily fear of rocket attack.

Making meaningful efforts towards ending violence and building peace will do far more to ensure security and safety for Israel’s citizens.

EAMONN MEEHAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, TROCAIRE, MAYNOOTH, CO KILDARE

Irish Independent

Post Office

July 17, 2014

17July2014 Post office

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. A quiet day I go to the Post Office

ScrabbleMarywins, but gets under 400. perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.

Obituary:

Anthony Smith – obituary

Anthony Smith was an adventurer who took his balloon on an East African safari and rafted the Atlantic in his eighties

Anthony Smith on board the Antiki

Anthony Smith on board the Antiki

5:53PM BST 16 Jul 2014

CommentsComments

Anthony Smith, who has died aged 88, was a bestselling author, broadcaster, balloonist and octogenarian rafter.

Exploration lay at the heart of Smith’s varied pursuits. He was one of the first presenters of Tomorrow’s World; a science correspondent for The Telegraph; he published some 30 books; and had a fish named after him. He was also the first Briton to fly a balloon across the Alps and, in 2011, made headline news when he celebrated his 85th birthday mid-Atlantic on a home-made raft — a party shared with three fellow amateur adventurers of advanced years whom Smith had recruited through a small ad in these pages.

Antiki at sea in 2011

Smith had long harboured a desire to pay tribute to the survivors of Anglo Saxon, a British merchant ship sunk off the west coast of Africa by a German auxiliary cruiser in 1940. Of an original seven sailors who scrambled into Anglo Saxon’s jolly boat, only two — Roy Widdicombe and Robert Tapscott — survived a 2,800-mile journey across the Atlantic. They eventually landed on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas.

“As I grew longer in the tooth, I began to think that some kind of re-enactment might be interesting,” said Smith. “The idea grew in my mind that, using a raft, I would cross the very waters where Tapscott and Widdicombe had suffered so horrendously. With luck, I might even land on the beach where they had struggled up the shore.”

In 2010 he built a raft (funded by the compensation payout from a road accident) and named it Antiki — in honour of Kon-Tiki, the raft used by Thor Heyerdahl on his 1947 expedition to the Polynesian Islands. Smith’s 40-by-18ft raft was fashioned out of plastic gas pipes, and topped with a small hut and a sail billowing from a telegraph pole. It had a small gas stove, an outside “loo with a view” and a foot-pumped computer for communicating with the wider world.

Smith liked to quote TS Eliot’s line from Four Quartets: “Old men ought to be explorers”. Ageing quietly was not his modus operandi. “Am I supposed to potter about, pruning roses and admiring pretty girls, or should I do something to justify my existence?” he asked. Needing crew, Smith placed an advertisement in The Telegraph: “Fancy rafting across the Atlantic? Famous traveller requires 3 crew. Must be OAP. Serious adventurers only.”

Three fellow travellers were enlisted (though none was actually a pensioner) — David Hildred (57, from the Virgin Islands), Andrew Bainbridge (56, from Canada) and John Russell (61, from Oxford).

On January 30 2011 the four set out from Valle Gran Rey in the Canary Islands bound for Eleuthera. “It’s always good to have a destination in mind,” stated Smith, “even on a country walk.” Over the next 10 weeks his reports appeared in The Sunday Telegraph. “The raft’s two rudders broke on the third day,” he wrote. “Fresh food ran out after three weeks.” They saw four whales and marvelled at “the whole almighty spectacle” of the night skies.

Anthony Smith in the cabin of Antiki

They crossed the Atlantic over 66 days — travelling 2,763 miles at an average speed of 2.1 knots — before arriving, somewhat off course, at the Caribbean Island of St Maarten. Disappointed to have landed so far from his desired destination, Smith recruited four new shipmates — photographer Bruno Sellmer; Smith’s 62-year old godson Nigel Gallaher and his wife Leigh; and camerawoman Alison Porteous.

The new crew set out for Eleuthera in April 2012. “This second trip was very different from the first,” acknowledged Smith. “With two women and three men — rather than four men alone on a raft — the cabin was tidier and the culinary choice better. There were no card games, more casual chat and earlier bedtimes.” Against all odds, they succeeded, and were washed ashore at night in a violent storm just 200 metres from the very spot recorded by Anglo Saxon’s survivors.

Anthony Smith was born on March 30 1926 at Taplow in Buckinghamshire and grew up on the Astor estate at Cliveden, where his father was manager (he later became Chief Agent for the National Trust). His mother, Diana Watkin, was the daughter of the head of the Bank of England’s bullion office.

Anthony was educated at Blundell’s School and Balliol College, Oxford, where he read Zoology. At the age of 16 he read an account of the two survivors of the Anglo Saxon. “The story moved me deeply and stayed with me,” he later recalled.

Smith joined the RAFVR in 1944 and trained as a pilot, and after being demobbed in 1948 he continued to fly with the Oxford University Air Squadron.

His first book, Blind White Fish in Persia (1953), chronicled a student expedition to Persia where he explored the Qanat subterranean irrigation tunnels. During these travels he discovered a new species of blind cave loach, which was subsequently named Nemacheilus smithi.

In 1953 he joined The Manchester Guardian as a general reporter before leaving for South Africa to manage Drum magazine (a period he later detailed in Sea Never Dry, 1958). He described Drum as “the voice of black unrest, of segregated misery, of political aspiration”. When he left the magazine he cashed in his ticket home and bought a motorcycle which he rode from Cape Town to England. The five-month journey resulted in the book High Street Africa (1961).

Anthony Smith (on left) with Alan Root and Douglas Botting in Jambo in 1962

Smith rejoined The Manchester Guardian as industrial correspondent (1956-57) while also editing Manchester Guardian Weekly. From 1957 to 1963 he was a science correspondent for The Daily Telegraph.

In 1962 Smith took three months off to fly his hydrogen balloon, Jambo, across Africa for “The Sunday Telegraph Balloon Safari”. Fellow explorer and author Douglas Botting and the film maker Alan Root joined him on a flight from Zanzibar across northern Tanganyika, over the Ngorongoro Crater, where they were reported to have “come down quickly with a loud bang”. In his account (Throw Out Two Hands, 1963) Smith also described how they narrowly avoided being killed when the balloon flew into an enormous thunder cloud.

Jambo flying over East Africa

Smith’s African escapade fuelled a passion for ballooning. The following year he made his landmark crossing of the Alps, and in 1965 founded — with the aviatrix Sheila Scott — the British Balloon and Airship Club, of which he was president until his death. He worked on airship sequences for the films Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1967) and Superman II (1980) and became the proud owner of a three-seater gas airship, the Santos Dumont.

In 1963 Smith turned freelance. The move coincided with the birth of his first son, Adam, and the start of four years’ research for his magnum opus, The Body (1968), an exploration of the inner workings of the human form. Alistair Cooke called it “the masterpiece among all those works that tell us how we work and how we don’t”. It sold more than 800,000 copies, was published in 14 languages and made into a BBC series presented by Professor Robert Winston (The Human Body, 1998).

Anthony Smith at home in 2010

Further expeditions followed. A 6,000-mile journey around Britain’s mainland coastline by boat, lorry and Land Rover provided material for two books — Beside the Seaside (1972) and Good Beach Guide (1973). And he returned to ballooning with The Dangerous Sport (1970), in which he recorded his further adventures in Jambo. In the early Seventies, Smith spent two years as official correspondent for a Royal Society/Royal Geographical Society expedition to central Brazil, a period he chronicled in Matto Grosso (1971).

Smith presented many television programmes, including Science is News (1958-59); Tomorrow’s World (1966-67); Great Zoos of the World (1967-68); Great Parks of the World (1971); and Wilderness (1973-74). He also wrote the commentary for World About Us and The Natural World programmes and a series of children’s stories for Jackanory . Radio 4 listeners, meanwhile, enjoyed his series Sideways Looks (1977-89) in which he provided an amusing and provocative angle on everyday events.

Anthony Smith and his son, Adam, preparing for their trans-African road trip in 1983

During the early Eighties, Smith reversed the journey he had made in the early 1960s by motorcycling from England to Cape Town, accompanied by his 19-year-old son Adam on an identical machine. It became the subject of his 1984 travelogue, Smith & Son.

The Mind, a follow-up to The Body, appeared in the same year.

The Old Man & The Sea, Smith’s account of his last great adventure, will be published by Little Brown in February 2015. “People tell me I have led an interesting life,” wrote Smith. “I say the activities have led me. They have arisen from the blue, emptied my purse (almost always) and were often dangerous, making me wish they would cease. But there is some demanding and internal maggot more in charge of me than the me which is myself.”

In 1956 Smith married Barbara Newman. The marriage was dissolved in 1983. He married secondly, in 1984, Margaret Ann Holloway; that marriage was dissolved in 2007.

Anthony Smith is survived by a son and two daughters from his first marriage, a son from his second, a daughter from a separate relationship and a grandson.

Anthony Smith, born March 30 1926, died July 7 2014

Guardian:

I welcome Nicky Morgan to the world of education as the new secretary of state (Going, going … Gove, 16 July). This Sunday we will be screening a sneak preview of Art Party, a feature film starring John Voce as Michael Grove at the Latitude festival. Grove’s character is based on Morgan’s predecessor. All people involved in education are reeling from the last four years of Michael Gove‘s education reforms. His main mistake was to confuse the different subjects – mathematics, history, English, art etc – with educational standards. He thought certain subjects had innately high standards and some were substandard. These illogical and prejudicial views led Michael Gove to make a complete mess of the national curriculum.

He constructed a hugely complex system for valuing subjects that marginalised everything he thought was not worthwhile – including, surprisingly, creativity in the arts and design.

Other people will tell Morgan about problems with free schools, and academies. How Gove with one hand gave growing control over schools to local businesses and religious groups, which has led to huge difficulties over accountability, and how with the other hand he tried to control schools through the curriculum. But it is his diminishment of the arts in schools that has alienated every person I have met in my attempt to better advocate the arts to government since 2010.

I welcome Morgan’s appointment. She has talked about her frustration with the Conservatives‘ negative approach. Well, she has just replaced a man for whom a negative approach has spelled his demise. She should feel validated in the idea of showing children a future that has a positive message. The arts in schools provide a beating heart of hope. Art is about design and drawing the future. Creativity is future-gazing.

Until Tuesday I had been planning to run in Gove’s Surrey Heath constituency in the next election to flag up the place of creativity and design in our schools. I even bought a camper van from which to conduct my campaign. Morgan’s constituency, Loughborough, is further for me and my camper van to travel.

I hope Morgan will listen to teachers, children and parents. I hope she understands that not all kids are the same. That kids hugely intelligent at maths and science should be encouraged to enjoy and contribute to the culture of our country, and that gifted creative kids must not be told their subjects are not worth studying.

I hope Morgan gets the fact that British design depends on kids being visual and able to draw. I encourage her to visit the Nationwide Art Party on 21 August, GCSE results day, and do everything in her power to reverse the 14% decline in children choosing the arts in schools since 2010. Please do ask children to choose the arts at school and be all that they can be.
Patrick Brill (AKA Bob and Roberta Smith)
London

• Mr Cameron reveals his true judgment of the worth of women by appointing Nicky Morgan as education secretary but leaving her in post as women’s minister. Well, it’s not a “proper” job is it? Easy enough to sort out Gove’s mess at the same time.
Jill Marks
Broseley Wood, Shropshire

• If Nicky Morgan was known as the “minister for straight women” (Cameron scrapes off the ‘barnacles’ but stokes up trouble on the Tory right, 16 July) then surely she will now be the “secretary of state for straight children’s education”.
Professor Rebecca Boden
Wotton under Edge, Gloucestershire

• Despite Kenneth Baker’s claims to the contrary there have only been two Conservative education ministers who have radically reshaped the English education system. One was Rab Butler, who in 1944 forged a system out of disorganised fragments shattered by war; the other was Michael Gove, who dismantled a functioning system, shattering it by rhetoric and calumny. With all its faults Butler’s system lasted 70 years; will Gove’s “non-system”, with its still greater fault lines, last even seven?
Professor Colin Richards
Spark Bridge, Cumbria

• You suggest that Iain Duncan Smith, unlike Michael Gove, survived the reshuffle because his policies are popular (Education secretary showed zeal but failed to win voters over. That’s why he lost his job and Duncan Smith didn’t, 15 July). This might not be the only explanation.

Employment and support allowance, replacing incapacity benefit: over 700,000 people waiting – endlessly – to be assessed by Atos. Personal independence payment, introduced last year to replace disability living allowance: by March, 349,000 claims made but fewer than a quarter decided; most claims now taking between six and 12 months to process. Universal credit, Iain Duncan Smith’s pet project, designed to “make work pay”: about a million people predicted to be on the benefit by now; claimant count this April, 5,880. (Not to mention millions of pounds wasted on failed IT systems.)

Is it not possible that, despite the fact that a cabinet post does indeed make work pay, there may have been a shortage of candidates for Mr Duncan Smith’s job?
Patricia de Wolfe
London

• The list of new ministerial appointments shows a refreshing example of this government’s commitment to transparency. George Freeman MP has joined the government as a health and business minister, a new role straddling the Department of Health and Department for Business. Quite coincidentally, before entering parliament he had a career in the biomedical venture capital industry. Is this also a rare example of the revolving door in reverse? At least there can be no further doubt about the government’s agenda for the NHS.
John Kehoe
Ramsbury, Wiltshire

• There was a careers conference in Cambridge on Monday and Tuesday. Tuesday morning was special. Was this, I wondered, the first time a gathering of careers advisers had burst into applause at the news that someone had lost their job?
Dr Lyn Barham
Bath

• Michael Gove’s appointment as Conservative chief whip is good news. It is hard to think of a job better suited to his talents. Tory MPs will now be able to appreciate at first hand all the courtesy, charm and tact that teachers know so well. The news that Mr Gove is to be given an enhanced broadcasting role in the runup to the general election will also be widely welcomed, not least in the Labour party.
Donald Mackinnon
Yardley Gobion, Northamptonshire

• Has David Cameron never read House of Cards by Michael Dobbs?
Hazel Davies
Notre-Dame-du-Bec, France

When is a snoopers’ charter not a snooping charter? When David Cameron and his stooge Nick Clegg call it the data retention and investigation powers bill (Surveillance bill rushed through in a day, 16 July).

The European court of justice decided in April that the blanket surveillance by the state, which forced companies to retain communications data for 12 years, must stop. In order to circumvent the ruling, David Cameron is creating a new law without either parliamentary oversight or scrutiny, so as to keep us “safe from criminals and terrorists”. Remember, people, the terrorists want to destroy your freedom. In order to combat this we need to record all your communications, track you and record you wherever you go. To protect your freedom. Hmm.

Will this legislation be applied to companies? Will it apply to multinationals that supply weapons to terrorists? Will it apply to tax dodgers? Will it apply to politicians? No? Thought not.

This draconian law isn’t happening in other EU countries, so why just the UK? It would seem that Barack Obama and the NSA’s influence trumps everything, even EU law – well, in this country anyway. Bets for when this data, which is being gathered to keep us “safe”, will be sold to Yahoo or Google?

Our free speech has been eroded, our worker rights have been watered down, our right to demonstrate is being taken from us and now Cameron wants to remove our right to strike. Let us not forget either that Boris Johnson’s water cannons await, lest anyone make the mistake and happen to believe we live in a democracy.

All this from an unelected prime minister and government. He has no mandate for spying on us, and what is worse is that the “opposition” have signed up for the snooping charter, sight unseen.

In 1979 Stiff Little Fingers sang “They take away our freedom in the name of liberty”. They were singing about the terrorists; 35 years later it could equally apply to our government.
Julie Partridge
London

• In principle, the proposals are important for national security and law enforcement. It is essential that any intrusion into a citizen’s private affairs is minimal, proportionate to the benefits to society as a whole, and properly controlled and supervised. Hasty legislation has often proved to be badly flawed.
Dr Martyn Thomas
Institution of Engineering and Technology

• Two interesting contrasting stories on 11 July. One, British PM David Cameron is to rush through emergency law to allow spying on us. Two, German chancellor Angela Merkel orders CIA official out of the country because the US refuses to cooperate over spying allegations, including spying on her own mobile phone. We were recently told from on high (by Gove, possibly?), that “British” values included things like the rule of law, democracy and human rights. It looks like, when it comes to defending these values, it is a case of Germany 7, England 1.
William Hinds
York

• Britons never never never shall be slaves as long as we are willing to gag, blindfold and shackle ourselves voluntarily to preserve our inner freedom and moral superiority.
John Bird
London

Man and woman on scale, symbol for equality

Battle of the sexes … on the Letters page. Photograph: Alamy

At the age of 75, I have spent the great majority of my life being always pigeonholed as “Others” in most opinion polls. Wouldn’t it be helpful and for political transparency if the Guardian, in future, published a breakdown, maybe down to 1% level, showing who we actually support? In your current poll (Ukip support plunges to give Tories a slender lead, 15 July), we are on 11%, 2% in front of Ukip and 1% behind the Lib Dems. Now that Ukip is no longer being lumped in with “Others”, we find ourselves as a growing band of voters who, I suspect, wouldn’t even consider voting for the other two and a quarter major parties.
John Marjoram
Stroud, Gloucestershire

•  Between 11 June 2013 and 1 April 2014 I had seven letters published in the Guardian plus one in the Observer, and a reference to another by Michele Hanson. Another on 31 October 2012, and in 2005 I got a piece of advice published in Private lives. I’m sure the dearth of women letter writers (Letters, 12 July) is because of the overburdening of women with domestic work and paid work. Thankfully this no longer applies to me as my children are grown up and husband finally unloaded!
Margaret Davis
London

• Tony Blair might have persuaded Google to blur his house on Street View (How well do you know your mansions?, G2, 15 July). But one can still see the house from above, with the Blairs’ attached mews house and terrace, on Google’s satellite view, look up its interior features and value on Zoopla, and look at any number of (unblurred) other photos online. Perhaps Mr B should be contacting Google’s new “forgetting” facility.
Philip Steadman
Saint Astier, France

• Marcial Boo of Ipsa (Letters, 16 July), will have heartened the nation with the news that one group, at least, is exempt from the privations of coalition austerity. Yes, MPs continue to enjoy a generous spare-room subsidy. Good for them.
Graham Rehling
Canterbury, Kent

• Glad to see readers are starting to ask some serious questions of the cliche writers (Letters, 16 July). Have they anything left in the tank?
Paul Roper
High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

As an old BBC hand, it troubles me to see the debate about the director general’s proposed scrapping of output quotas and spinning off in-house TV production so heavily skewed in the range of voices invited to comment (If the BBC scraps output quotas and spins off TV production, what impact will it have on the industry?, 14 July). Tony Hall‘s proposals are backed by loyal BBC senior managers, past and present, plus leading independents with clear vested interests in the changes, all further endorsed by Steve Hewlett (Opinion, 14 July).

There should have been at least one dissenting voice to put the case that this creeping privatisation will damage the ecology of television in the long term. There used to be deep-rooted commitment to a non-commercial public service ideal among staff, and consequently BBC output had a different feel from rivals. They were competing for audiences but not for funding. Now that producers and directors continually slip in and out of independents, there has been a culturally significant loss of that sense of being part of a public-spirited collective enterprise at the BBC.

Hall’s proposals will hasten this process to the detriment of our democratic culture. Output across channels and platforms will become ever more homogeneous and indistinguishable. Worse, there will be no major media outlet which is not structurally embedded in free-market ideology, making it even harder to get a hearing for alternative views that don’t buy into that way of life as a given inevitability.
Giles Oakley
Former head of BBC community & disability programmes

• Another alternative to Radio 3‘s silly chat shows (Letters, 10 July) is Radio New Zealand Concert, which is just like Radio 3 was before the dumbers-down took over: whole works with simple factual remarks (no simpering introductions, with the presenters’ fatuous opinions, texts or other tedious audience participation).
Dr Richard Carter
London

Dennis Walder writes of Nadine Gordimer‘s “support for all South African writers” (Obituary, 15 July). When I visited my birth country freely in 1991, after 26 years in exile, I already owed her a huge debt as a reader. So when the Congress of South African Writers invited me to join a weekend workshop, imagine my surprise to find her in its downtown office in Johannesburg, helping to organise the transport to our rural venue. This was the year she was awarded the Nobel prize for literature.

During a later encounter when I mentioned the novel on which I was working, she gave me this sound, long-lasting advice: “Take your time.” Elsewhere she spoke of how “details make a world” and, in addressing profound questions of a writer’s social responsibility, she gave us the term “witness literature” (Testament of the word, 14 June 2002). She honoured other great writers through quotation, for instance, Flaubert writing to Turgenev: “I have always tried to live in an ivory tower, but a tide of shit is beating its walls, threatening to undermine it.” She expanded my world, our world. Hamba kahle, Nadine Gordimer.
Beverley Naidoo
Bournemouth

Independent:

Having met, once, Israel’s Ambassador Daniel Taub  at a meeting in 2003 to “exchange evidence” on the shooting of my son, Tom, in Gaza, I feel compelled to respond to his deeply disingenuous article (“We believe Hamas prevents Gaza prospering in peace”, 16 July) in which he frames his points by dividing Gaza into three.

I’m not going to answer the inaccuracies, half-truths, misrepresentations and cruel logic but will leave this to others.

Mr Taub, there is only one Gaza, currently being bombed to pieces by the might and sophistication of Israel’s military as a “response” to the incomparably cruder Hamas rockets coming out of Gaza.

Fortunately, Israel has the infrastructure, funds and basic materials to build bomb shelters for its people.  Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank continue to suffer: an internationally recognised, illegal military occupation, extreme provocation brought about by settlement-building on Palestinian land in spite of international condemnation, the utter thwarting of prosperity due to closed borders and blocked coast, grossly disproportionate civilian deaths and injuries, the destruction of thousands of homes, and a lack of food, water and medical supplies.

It shows a breathtaking lack of empathy to refer to the “third Gaza that could have been” had they built a “prosperous society with tourists flocking to its beaches”.

Given the history of this conflict, it would take a lot to convince me of Mr Taub’s words that Israel “sought to avoid confrontation altogether”, that it acts with restraint, and that “quiet would be met with quiet”.

Jocelyn Hurndall
London NW5

Daniel Taub makes a carefully constructed argument that Israel is only against Hamas’s underground world in Gaza of rockets and tunnels. That part is understandable; firing rockets at Israeli civilians is wrong and a war crime.

But Israel has also hit Palestinians in Gaza above ground, civilians and civilian infrastructure, including schools, homes and medical facilities.

Taub promises “quiet for quiet” yet this is not on offer at all. A ceasefire cannot come soon enough, and then Israelis can return to a life we can all recognise as normal.

Palestinians in Gaza will remain in hell, under siege, deprived of basic liberties and rights, with power cuts 12 hours a day and water not even fit for animal consumption. They will have no port, no airport, and cannot trade and travel freely.

Some Dubai-like dream world was never on offer and would take decades to create, even in the finest circumstances.

Chris Doyle
Director, Council for Arab-British Understanding
London EC4

 

It is no surprise that Hamas has rejected the Egyptian peace proposal. Hamas cannot have peace with Israel because its strategic culture calls for a constant conflict. The group defines its raison d’être as fighting the Israeli right to exist, not its occupation.

Its war against Israel is, therefore, not about winning, as Hamas cannot possibly win, but to keep the anti-Israel war hysteria boiling – which means that mounting causalities, civilian deaths, destruction of infrastructure etc are of no consequence to Hamas’s strategic calculus.

It is a shame that the West has allowed this state of affairs in Gaza to continue for so long. The Gazans will surely benefit from not having to live under rulers who are constantly driving them into pointless and destructive wars.

Instead of merely denouncing Israel for its military action, is it not time the West also took notice of the plight of Gaza’s besieged citizens and helped free them from Hamas’s quasi-legitimate rule?

Randhir Singh Bains
Gants Hill, Ilford

Israel refers to Palestinians who take armed action against the Israeli forces as “terrorists”. However, the Palestinians are simply reacting against an army of occupation and siege.

We do not refer to the French Resistance during the Second World War as “terrorists”. And we admire the Jews in the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto against the occupying Nazi soldiers – we would not describe them as terrorists and the Israelis certainly don’t.

John Lohrenz
Godalming, Surrey

Does Ambassador Taub think the British are stupid enough to believe his propaganda? Many countries were quick to impose sanctions on Russia because of interference in Ukraine. Why not the same sanctions on Israel?

Michael Pate
Preston, Lancashire

Daniel Taub implies that Israel’s actions in Gaza are proportionate to the firing of Hamas’s utterly ineffective missiles. Let’s be absolutely clear: they are not.

When the IRA bombed Canary Wharf, Warrington and the Arndale Centre in Manchester, killing scores of people, the UK didn’t order the RAF to heavily bomb the Bogside.

Mark Holt
Waterloo, Merseyside

 

Gove dismantled our education system

There have been only two Conservative education ministers who have radically reshaped the English education system.

One was Rab Butler who in 1944 forged a system out of disorganised fragments shattered by war; the other was Michael Gove who dismantled a functioning system, shattering it by rhetoric and calumny.

With all its faults Butler’s system lasted 70 years; will Gove’s non-system, with its still greater fault lines, last even seven?

Professor Colin Richards
Spark Bridge, Cumbria

Richard Garner writes (16 July): “Mr Gove was certainly the most ideologically committed and zealous Education Secretary I have come across.”

I would question whether a free and democratic country should have someone in charge of education who is informed by ideology and is a zealot.

Having been a teacher in the UK state system for 33 years and a teacher in China for 10, I would urge every parent and taxpayer to be extremely wary of mixing ideology with any child’s schooling, unless there is a very wide consensus on the understanding and correctness and, most importantly, the wisdom of the ideology.

Is it not ironic that  during the watch of the ideological Mr Gove some schools have been found to  have governors whose ideology is deemed to be unacceptable?

Patrick Wood
Hong Kong

David Cameron apparently reckons that he will improve his election chances by moving Michael Gove after “Lib Dems warned they would exploit his unpopularity” (16 July). Wouldn’t it have been better if they had kept that to themselves?

Kate Francis
Bristol

 

New data law based on bogus argument

The fact that the Data Retention and Investigative Powers Act was being voted through Parliament over just three days this week is a travesty. David Cameron’s justification for the emergency legislation is events in Iraq and Syria and the threat from criminals and terrorists targeting the UK. This is bogus.

Before the invasion of Iraq and the bolstering of the anti-regime forces in Syria by Washington and London, there was no terrorist threat emanating from these countries. Moreover, the Western powers have been actively aiding opposition forces in Syria as part of their goal of regime change.

Once again, the “war on terror” is being employed to abrogate civil liberties.

Alan Hinnrichs
Dundee

 

What is the cost of weight-loss surgery?

You report that the NHS could offer weight-loss surgery to people with type 2 diabetes (report,  11 July). Has a survey been conducted of the long-term benefits? I have met people who have had a gastric band fitted and, after losing a huge amount of weight, they have gradually returned to their former size. Before billions of pounds are spent on these operations we should be assured of their long-term value.

Mike Stroud
Swansea

When are people going to get it into their fat heads that obesity is not necessarily the fault of the sufferer? Yes, it might come from personal greed or be a result of years of allowing the food industry its pernicious head, but it may also be the result of illness: a metabolic failure.

I gained weight relentlessly for some 20 years. The belief that it was somehow my own fault was one of the reasons why my illness wasn’t diagnosed until I was very ill, my career and social life had been wrecked, and I had had a stroke.

You can imagine how my mental health was affected by the moral judgement I encountered almost daily.

Eventually I found a doctor who actually listened to me and believed me when I told him I could starve myself to death and I would still die fat.

He sent me to a man who knew what he was doing and bariatric surgery has not only saved my life, it has given me back a good quality of life.

Sara Neill
Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Times:

Sir, Contrary to the impression conveyed by the media, plenty of teachers and headteachers value the excellent contribution made to education by Michael Gove, who has been an energetic, determined and visionary secretary of state. I much lament his departure which, I fear, is the consequence of a huge misjudgment that places votes before principles and thus militates against further much-needed improvement. I do not agree with everything he has sought to do (nor does he) but I have not the slightest doubt that he has been the most effective education secretary there has been in my lifetime. His fearlessness, especially when upsetting vested interests, has been exemplary. I hope Nicky Morgan will continue the splendid work that has been done, from which pupils and parents have been the principal beneficiaries. It is for them, we need to remind ourselves occasionally, that schools exist.

Simon Corns
Headmaster, Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Blackburn, Lancs

Sir, You praise Mr Gove in his role as education minister but ignore the harm his reforms caused. It may be that some reforms were necessary, but you should recognise that his cavalier treatment of teachers hindered rather than helped reform.

When reform is undertaken, it makes sense to take those who have to put it into practice with you. And it makes sense not to overwhelm with reform from all sides.

I have just retired from teaching. In recent years changes were being made to almost every aspect of the job that I once loved. The inspection regime was changed — more than once; exam criteria were changed — with almost no notice in English; classroom methods became increasingly prescriptive; pension contributions were hiked so we had to deal with a cut in pay (as well as no pay increases). Perhaps most damaging was Mr Gove’s contempt for teachers, and this was taken up in the press. It has been distressing to have my profession, and thus myself, derided and scorned.

Anne Woodward
Holme on Spalding Moor, York

Sir, With the removal of Mr Gove from the Department of Education we once again see decisions driven by electoral prospects and not what is best for the country. Mr Cameron should be applauded for standing by Mr Gove through all the objections of “the blob” but at first sight that the education reforms may harm his electoral prospects he moves away from what he believes is best for the country to what he believes will be best at polling day. If Mr Cameron believes in the reforms as strongly as he has said in the past surely he should have stuck with his man.

David McIntosh
Hampton

Sir, With the departure of Michael Gove we must pray that we shall not be returning to the years when a rapid and seemingly interminable succession of secretaries of state did little for those who really matter in our schools — the children.

When I was chairman of HMC, he and I may have had our disagreements, but these were trivial when contrasted with our shared and firm belief in putting the interests of pupils first. Only those who put the self-interests of the relatively few disaffected teachers above the needs of children will celebrate as he moves on.

Dr Christopher Ray
Vice-chairman, Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference

Development charities warn that the new Lobbying Act will have damaging unintended effects on democracy

Sir, The new Lobbying Act was poorly drafted and rushed through Parliament. Few people realise how it will snarl many charities and civil society organisations in red tape or silence them altogether.

From September 19 to election day, if charity campaigns are construed as favouring one party or candidate over another they must limit their activity within prohibitively tight spending caps. Campaigns as diverse as saving a nursery from closing or calling for action on climate change could be caught even if their sole intent is to raise awareness and they do not name a party or candidate.

The 400 international development organisations that Bond represents do not want to electioneer. They want to campaign on issues central to their purpose — tackling the root causes of global poverty.

We and many others call for the act to be replaced by one which regulates party-political lobbying while safeguarding civil society’s right to speak out. As it is, the Lobbying Act is a threat to a healthy democracy.

Ben Jackson

Bond

Broadband can’t just get faster; in tomorrow’s world it will have to be smarter too

Sir, Faster broadband will contribute far more to the UK’s future wealth than other infrastructure projects, but technical change is also needed.

In future the rapid increase in the population will make it financially unsustainable to deliver ever-higher speed targets for everyone. Instead, we should focus on encouraging technology and network providers to collaborate more closely to create “demand attentive networks” which can respond to individual user demand. This would offer better performing networks more cheaply.

The new focus would be on what users want to do over the networks, rather than on just growing bandwidth for bandwidth’s sake. For example there is likely to be a huge growth in video streaming over the next few years. Economic benefits would be gained from networks that can respond specifically to this trend. And we will need smart regulation to adjust bandwidth demand in real time — rather than having high capacity available everywhere, all the time.

Professor Will Stewart

Institution of Engineering and Technology

The Law Society’s tax experts say that the Revenue has been given far too many powers for its, or our, own good

Sir, The Finance Bill has given HMRC powers to make decisions that should be made by the courts. While it is easy to target entertainers, sports stars and business leaders on suspected tax avoidance schemes (“HMRC to demand tax from stars”, July 15), we should not lose sight of the fact that this change has turned HMRC into both judge and jury.

It can now assert that a decision in one taxpayer’s case is relevant to another taxpayer’s dispute and, unless the second taxpayer obtains judicial review or persuades HMRC otherwise, if that taxpayer continues with his appeal but loses he is at risk of penalties.

There are differing views on whether cash subject to tax disputes should be held by HMRC or the taxpayer until a case is decided, but for taxpayers to be penalised simply for questioning HMRC’s view is wrong, and the Law Society has consistently argued this point with officials.

Gary Richards

Chairman, Law Society tax law committee

High street health practitioners can advise people on how to avoid the bad-lifestyle illnesses

Sir, High street health specialists can help to reduce the pressure on GPs and A&E (“GPs on call to avert crisis this winter”, July 16), as well as tackling the illnesses that cripple the NHS. Long-term conditions cost £7 in every £10 spent on health and social care in England and eating badly, smoking and drinking cause four fifths of the main illnesses.

As community pharmacists, optometrists, dentists and hearing experts, our hours and locations are convenient alternatives to A&E or GPs. Our daily contacts with people are an opportunity to help them move from “sick-care” to “self-care”.

Our members are in the forefront of this “primary care”, and we hope everyone will see us as dispensers of health as well as of medicines, spectacles and hearing aids. It will play a big part in keeping a national health service free.

Dr Michael Dixon, NHS Alliance; David Hewlett, National Community Hearing Association; Don Grocott, Optical Confederation; Professor Robert Darracott, Pharmacy Voice

Reports about the rare corn-cockle are a useful reminder that the plant’s seeds are powerfuly toxic

Sir, Until I read your report (July 16) I was delighted to see corn-cockles among the sprinkling of wildflower seeds in my garden. I will uproot them immediately. I had no idea that these beautiful pink flowers were so dangerous. And to think that last week I introduced my six-month-old grandson to them and he had wrapped his little fingers around the blooms.

Linda Carsberg-Davis

Knutsford, Cheshire

Telegraph:

xcluding them from the full church hierarchy

 A crowd of hundreds of women priests stands with Justin Welby

81 per cent of Synod members backed the motion to allow women to be ordained as bishops Photo: John Stillwell/Pool

6:57AM BST 16 Jul 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – Can anyone explain why, once someone has been accepted into the Church of England priesthood, there should be any question about their advancement in that calling? Women deacons were exploited for years, doing excellent work while wishing to be ordained.

Now the Church has admitted them as equal to men in that respect, yet there still seems to be a groundswell of lay opinion wishing to restrict their admission to the full hierarchy. Is this not hypocritical?

Celia Moreton-Prichard
London SE13

SIR – While I have no particular view on whether women should be appointed bishops or not, I am fascinated by the logic that you keep voting on the issue until you get the decision that you want.

Tony French
Hatfield Peverel, Essex

SIR – The Synod’s initial decision to reject the appointment of women bishops was reached after prayer “seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit”. Two years later, it seems that the Holy Spirit has been asked to reconsider his opinion.

Max Gammon
London SE16

SIR – Just where do the underpaid and largely female nursery workers, nannies and child-minders who care for the infants of powerful women at the top of their game” fit into Isabel Hardman’s vision of gender “equality”?

Victoria Owens
Long Ashton, Somerset

As the world turns

SIR – I’m afraid that I do not agree with Sinclair McKay (“Let’s hope galactic travel never takes off”).

Having family in New Zealand, I frequently endure the 24-hour flying time involved in visiting them. Many years ago I thought that it would be wonderful if I could board a rocket in Britain, zoom up into space and wait 12 hours for the Earth to bring New Zealand round to me. Everybody thought that I was mad. However, it looks as if my dream might come true.

Unfortunately, I am unlikely to live long enough to enjoy it.

Pamela Wheeler
Shrewsbury, Shropshire

Children’s galleries

SIR – It is not only pubs that are becoming like kindergartens and crèches (Letters, July 14) but some art galleries, too.

The Tate is now being taken over by parents or nannies with pushchairs clipping your ankles and their shrieking toddlers running amok. There is little regard shown to those of us who have entered the gallery for a meaningful connection with the art on show.

Recently, however, I was very impressed by the large groups of five-year-olds on a school trip to London’s National Gallery. The children sat on the floor mesmerised while a pair of gifted lecturers brought to life two rather complex 15th-century religious paintings.

Gail Woodcock
Rottingdean, Sussex

Paying the Fidler

SIR – Apparently Lesley Fidler is a tax director.

If I were him, I would seriously consider changing either my name or my career.

Bruce Denness
Whitwell. Isle of Wight

Securing our food

SIR – Britain is currently 76 per cent self-sufficient in foods which can be produced at home (“Food experts warn it could be farewell to the land of plenty”), rather than the 68 per cent that was reported by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee. We are working to enable British producers to compete in markets here and overseas.

While increasing domestic production will benefit the food chain and the British economy generally, open markets and free trade are also fundamental to ensuring genuine security of supply globally.

Food security has never been reliant on Britain being entirely self-sufficient. Nevertheless, even on a measure of self-sufficiency, by historic comparison our level of self-sufficiency today is far higher than in the first half of the 20th century. During the Thirties, self-sufficiency was between 30 and 40 per cent.

We are investing more than £400 million in agri-food research every year, and £160 million in our agri-tech strategy, which is developing new resilient varieties of crops, more efficient use of water and a world-class centre of agricultural innovation.

I am confident our actions here will help safeguard our food security now and for future generations.

George Eustice MP (Con)
Minister for Farming, Food and Marine Environment
London SW1

Garden thieves

SIR – I grow my tomatoes in raised troughs. Each plant was supported by a cane, lashed with garden twine to the cross-bar above the trough.

The large population of local sparrows appear to be collecting nesting material, because each binding has been pecked through and removed (except one, which gave the game away).

Has anyone else experienced this problem?

Gavin Inglis
Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex

Jammed in the fridge

SIR – I believe it is the lower sugar content that requires modern jams to be refrigerated to prevent the onset of mould (Letters, July 15).

It is not this fact that I object to as much as having to remember to take it out of the fridge two hours before use so that I can taste it.

Peter Hamilton
London SE3

Living wills can clarify the assisted dying debate

SIR – On the available evidence relating to the forthcoming House of Lords debate on the Assisted Dying Bill, few seem to recognise the crucial place of the advanced medical directive (AMD), hitherto called a “living will”.

An AMD is drawn up with one’s solicitor at an earlier time, when one is fully compos mentis and able to discuss one’s wishes with one’s spouse, children and GP. Medical staff can be appraised of these expressed wishes, thereby obviating any subsequent uncertainty and sense of guilt.

John Maxwell
Great Barton, Suffolk

SIR – Lord Falconer, an eminent lawyer, should be familiar with the aphorism, “Hard cases make bad law.”

His Assisted Dying Bill would be just that: bad law prompted by some very hard cases.

Stanley Brodie QC
London EC4

SIR – That we put down our beloved pets to prevent them suffering is often cited as justification for assisted dying in humans (Letters, July 15), but according to the Dogs Trust 10,000 dogs a year are destroyed because they are abandoned and unwanted.

Though its intentions are good, the Assisted Dying Bill could easily evolve from a path for those in unbearable pain to end their lives in dignity into a coercive option to reduce the burden on carers or – worse – into state-sponsored euthanasia on economic grounds.

Phil Mobbs
West Hanney, Berkshire

SIR – Just how dependable are the terminal diagnoses offered by doctors? The prognosis given by NHS doctors that the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, had three months to live, was wrong by a factor of 11.

Either the doctors’ prognosis was not right, or the quality of care provided by the Libyan health service is further ahead of the NHS than we appreciated.

Martin Burgess
Beckenham, Kent

The road less travelled: an overgrown sign for the Via Aurelia Antica in Rome  Photo: Getty Images

6:59AM BST 16 Jul 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – Driving over 100 miles along the hedged and tree-lined roads in the Midlands, I was surprised at the large number of road signs partially obscured by overhanging branches. In these days of sat navs, perhaps councils claim that there are higher priorities, and that there is no money to pay staff to do this pruning, which could be a health and safety risk.

But is there not a small opportunity in the Big Society for local people to do some modest cutting back to help motorists know where they are and find their way to their destinations?

Roger Knight
Burton Latimer, Northamptonshire

Is Cameron’s reshuffle aimed at tightening his control of the Cabinet?

The decision to replace key ministers with inexperienced MPs shows a lack of respect for voters

Nicky Morgan, Philip Hammond, Michael Fallon, Liz Truss and Michael Gove

Clockwise from top left: Nicky Morgan, Philip Hammond, Michael Fallon, Liz Truss and Michael Gove

7:00AM BST 16 Jul 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – If the Conservatives in the Government have been shuffled to make the party more electable in 2015, that is common sense. However, to be replacing so much experience with inexperienced young MPs is disrespectful to the electorate.

It is true that David Cameron’s control of the Cabinet should be tightened. Is this his motive, I wonder?

Paddy Germain
Marden, Kent

SIR – Surely the Prime Minister should be thinking of what is best for the country, not what will win him the most votes in the next election.

Anne Rose
Brundall, Norfolk

SIR – David Cameron insults us all by force-feeding his Cabinet with women.

Lynne Lindsay
Ashill, Somerset

SIR – I am puzzled by Mr Cameron’s replacement of Michael Gove and Owen Paterson. What has the Prime Minister got against Mr Gove, except that he speaks his mind to all, including his fellow ministers? And Mr Paterson can only have been removed for being a climate-change sceptic and against the fox-hunting ban.

As far as the replacements are concerned, Nicky Morgan, now at Education, is a Treasury lawyer. Liz Truss, who had been minister for education and childcare, dislikes “trendy” education and has campaigned for better standards. Why has Mr Cameron appointed her to control animals and the environment?

This reshuffle makes no sense, except in the context of Mr Cameron’s desperate bid for re-election next year.

Daniel Bratchell
Worcester

SIR – William Hague, the outgoing foreign secretary, has a clear claim to have made the most misjudgments of any British cabinet minister in the last 100 years.

Both in opposition and in government, he was wrong about Afghanistan, wrong about Iraq, wrong about Libya, wrong about Egypt, and wrong about Syria.

Time will show the effects of his unnecessarily provocative recent policy on Ukraine, Iran and Russia. Although this follows the American lead, it lacks the considered, well-informed and cautious approach for which our Foreign Office used to be famous.

Vincent Howard
Barton Stacey, Hampshire

SIR – David Cameron’s reshuffle will be complete when the Tories win the next election and Nick Clegg and the other Lib Dem Coalition members lose their jobs.

Dominic Shelmerdine
London SW3

SIR – When a football team is doing badly, the team is kept and the manager is sacked. In politics, it seems that the team is sacked and the manager stays.

Roger Jenkins
Dunnington, North Yorkshire

Irish Times:

A chara, – Will the new Minister of State for the Gaeltacht have to have an interpreter as well as an adviser when he visits the Gaeltacht? – Yours, etc,

SEÁN Ó DÍOMASAIGH,

Kiltale,

Dunsany,

Co Meath.

A chara, – Joe McHugh is a politician of integrity and if he succeeds in becoming fully competent in Irish during the life of this Government, he will win many people’s respect. Is it not rather unfair that he was put in this position, however? – Yours, etc,

RONAN DOHERTY,

Cúirt Claremont,

Bóthar Fhionnghlaise,

Baile Átha Cliath 11.

Sir, – I see Éamon Ó Cuív and his fellow Gaeilgeoirí are up in arms over the lack of fluency in Irish of relevant Government Ministers. All he has succeeded in doing is getting people’s backs up all the more against Irish, which, whether he likes it or not, is a language spoken by very few, and cared about by even fewer.

The country has far more to be worrying about than whether or not Joe McHugh or any other Minister has the cúpla focal. – Yours, etc,

PEADAR O’SULLIVAN,

Highfield,

Carlow.

A chara, – Not so long ago we had a Minister for Finance who didn’t have a bank account. Now we have a Minister of State for the Gaeltacht who doesn’t have fluent Irish. It proves once again that in politics neck is more important than anything else. – Is mise,

JOHN GLENNON,

Bannagroe,

Hollywood,

Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Enda is now in charge of the mad hatter’s tea party where everything is the opposite of what it seems. Aon focal eile, Mr McHugh? – Yours, etc,

DECLAN BANNON,

Greenane,

Dunshaughlin,

Co Meath.

Sir, – It is only a few short months since the Irish Language Commissioner Seán Ó Cuirreáin resigned from his post because of perceived lack of Government support for or commitment to the implementation of what is supposed to be official policy towards the Irish language.

In particular, the then commissioner felt that his role in assisting Irish speakers to fulfil their right to deal with the State apparatus in their own language was being undermined. Many thousands of us took to the streets in recognition of his stand.

The Cabinet reshuffle is like a further slap in the face for the Irish-language community. We now have a situation that would be farcical if it were not so insulting.

For reasons of geographical distribution, or whatever, two able politicians have been appointed as senior and junior Ministers in the Department of the Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, but neither of them is capable of communicating in Irish with the public bodies or the local communities or the many individuals who work in this particular field. They will be unable to perform many ministerial duties without giving offence. They will be unable to follow media debate on matters that are part of their brief. Their ability to lead Oireachtas affairs on language policy will be compromised.

Their appointment can only be said to add to the reasons why Seán Ó Cuirreáin felt obliged to resign in protest. – Yours, etc,

AODH Ó DOMHNAILL,

Charlesland Court,

Greystones,

Co Wicklow.

A chara, – Is it too impudent for me, an Irish speaker, to ask who will explain to me in my native tongue, Irish, still the State’s first official language, the rationale regarding future decisions to do with the Gaeltacht and An Ghaeilge? It’s clear that both the new Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys, and the Minister of State, are not competent Irish speakers and will be unable to conduct interviews on either TG4 or Raidió na Gaeltachta – or indeed any of the surviving Irish language media – in the first language of the viewers, listeners and readers.

This is an increasingly fraught time in the Gaeltacht and throughout a growing Irish language community. We are not a “fringe”. The Government has made commitments in its programme for government and in various manifestos and has adapted the policy of previous governments with relation to the Irish language and the Gaeltacht, including the implementation of a 20-year plan for Irish.

Whatever the faults of the previous Minister of State, Dinny McGinley, and other Gaeltacht ministers in previous governments, they could still adequately explain and defend their decisions to the likes of me. – Is mise,

CONCUBHAR

Ó LIATHÁIN,

Cúil Aoda,

Co Chorcaí.

Sir, – We were promised a democratic revolution. What we have got is a cynical exercise in geographic clientelism that would make even Fianna Fáil blush. – Yours, etc,

MICHAEL JOY,

Midleton,

Co Cork.

Sir, – Perish the thought that we would ape our neighbours. British prime minister David Cameron, in a predictable election strategy, sacks middle-aged men and older to make way for female ministers.

Our Taoiseach sacks middle-aged men and older, to make way for younger men.

Another coup for Fine Gael. – Yours, etc,

JOHANNA

LOWRY O’REILLY,

Moyne Road,

Ranelagh,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – What a pity Enda did not bring in more women to give his team a modicum of elegance, energy and elan. Fine Gael’s Regina Doherty, Mary Mitchell O’Connor and Michelle Mulherin would surely be a match for most of the incumbent Ministers of State, as would Ciara Conway and Anne Ferris on the Labour side. – Yours, etc,

MICHAEL ANDERSON,

Moyclare Close,

Baldoyle,

Dublin 13.

Sir, – In his latest letter (July 16th), Israeli ambassador Boaz Modai makes a series of factually incorrect pronouncements. Please allow me to set the record straight.

Hamas did not “begin its present rocket offensive against Israel on June 12th, the first day of the search for three murdered Israeli teenagers” – whose murder we have condemned. Moreover Israel has failed to prove that Hamas is behind this crime.

On June 11th two people were killed in Gaza, one a 10-year-old child. Israel then invaded the West Bank, supposedly in search of the killers of the three teenagers, but in the process shot and killed 11 civilians, injured over 100 others, damaged hundreds of houses and arrested over 650 Palestinians, including 11 members of parliament.

It is perfectly clear that Israel’s current attack on the illegally besieged and completely defenceless Gaza Strip is a response to the recently formed and internationally recognised Palestinian unity government – because there is nothing that Israeli prime minister Netanyahu fears more than to negotiate with the unified Palestinian government. The murder of the three teenagers and the Hamas rockets are merely the pretexts for this massive and criminal escalation of Israeli violence.

Mr Modai shows some temerity in citing the additional protocol to the Geneva Convention’s prohibition of attacking the civilian population, especially when the highly respected NGO Defence for Children International estimates that on average one Palestinian child has been killed every three days by Israel since 2000.

MrModai is at least correct in claiming that “the difference between Israel and Hamas boils down to this: we are using bomb shelters and the Iron Dome system to protect the residents of Israel”.

The people of Gaza (1.7 million) have no bomb shelters, no Iron Dome, and indeed no air raid alarms; at present 18,000 Gazan civilians have taken refuge in UNRWA schools – and Israel has so far targeted and damaged several of these, in violation of the same Geneva Conventions cited by Mr Modai.

The international community must intervene to stop the continuation of this criminal Israeli campaign, which has so far indiscriminately targeted private houses, nursing homes, mosques and civilian infrastructure. So far over 208 Palestinians have been killed, some 20 per cent of them children. By putting peace further beyond our grasp, this does nothing in the long term to protect Israelis, for whom the end of their occupation of the state of Palestine and a just peace with their neighbours are the only guarantees of security. – Yours, etc,

AHMAD ABDELRAZEK,

Ambassador of

the State of Palestine,

Blackrock,

Co Dublin.

Sir, Further to Fintan O’Toole’s article “Latest cuts for coalface charities simply crass stupidity”, (Opinion & Analysis, July 15th), it would appear that small charities have become victims in the “who funds what” battle between departments. The groups affected are run on a shoestring and are possibly the most efficient organisations in this country in terms of their financial management.

These small groups offer a vital service to small numbers of people with disabilities. If their funding is cut, then the voices of those that they represent are silenced. I would appeal to the Government to allow small charities to continue to do so much with so little. – Yours, etc,

ALICE O’DONNELL,

Dromont,

Delgany,

Co Wicklow.

Sir, – I note that the Taoiseach says that small charities can “avail of a formal process of appeal” about the sudden, unilateral and devastating loss of their funding (“Disability charities can appeal funding cuts, says Kenny”, July 15th). Appeal to whom? It turns out the appeal is to Pobal, the very body making these cuts.

The Neurological Alliance of Ireland (NAI) is an umbrella organisation coordinating and advocating for its 31 member organisations. These organisations serve and represent people experiencing various types of disadvantage because of their neurological disability. Eleven of these organisations have also suffered funding cuts without any explanation or rationale.

NAI has worked energetically with the State in good faith to design and develop neuro-rehabilitation services in Ireland – services which hardly exist here, but are taken for granted elsewhere in the EU. Without such services, many people with neurological disability are left to rely on the more costly emergency and acute services as their condition progresses. This costs the State (and families) much more than would otherwise be the case.

The research literature shows that the the absence of rehabilitation services costs more than the price of providing them. NAI is ideally placed to draw on the detailed expertise and geographical knowledge of its member organisations and partner dynamically with the State as required. NAI is regularly told by the State how its expertise is valued — as in the 2011 neuro-rehabilitation strategy report. If these cuts go ahead, NAI will cease to exist.

After all our hard work, we now know how much we are really valued – zero. I hope this embarrassing saga is brought to an end to an end without putting us through further humiliation. Then we can get back to building a better Ireland. An apology would ease the pain a bit too. Fintan O’Toole is right. It is crass stupidity indeed! – Yours, etc,

ALEXIS DONNELLY,

Park Drive,

Ranelagh,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – Dubliners really are being ripped off. Fiona Reddan (“Is it time to wave goodbye to your car?”, July 15th) tells us that an annual bus pass in Dublin costs a breathtaking €1,230 per year.

In Vienna, an annual public transport pass costs €365, which works out at one euro a day.

For that, you get unlimited use of one of the world’s best public transport systems, with five underground lines (which are continually being modernised and extended), 29 tram routes and 145 bus lines, as well as an overground urban rail network. – Yours, etc,

RICHARD MURPHY

Stanislausgasse 8,

Vienna,

Austria.

Sir, – Fiona Reddan’s article mentions car-sharing. I would like to draw your attention to the electric car-sharing available in some European cities.

This system works very much like our Dublin Bike scheme. There are a few cars and perhaps a small van parked at dedicated charging stations.

They can be rented casually, once registered, by swiping with a rental card, and once you have finished with the vehicles, they are returned to the charging bay.

A perfect solution for town and city dwellers who need only occasional use of a private car.

Can we envisage a city centre with just bicycles, the Luas and electric cars?

How quiet that would be! – Yours, etc,

JENNY O’LEARY,

Old Carrickbrack Road,

Howth,

Dublin 13.

Sir, – When the ESB constructed the two 600ft chimneys in the South Docks in Dublin in 1972, it did so without having to apply for planning permission. In those days State, semi-State and local authorities were considered “exempt” from the provisions of the Planning Acts. Following a Supreme Court ruling in 1993, new legislation was introduced to require all such authorities to apply henceforth for planning permission, and previous developments carried out by the State were “deemed not to have required permission”. Had the ESB applied for planning permission in 1972, I am quite convinced that they would have been refused both by Dublin Corporation and on appeal (in those days before An Bord Pleanála was set up in 1976, an appeal was made to the minister for local government). Many objectors, including pilots, were totally opposed to the chimneys and this was in the days before the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), set up in 1992.

How ironic that the ESB will now require planning permission to demolish these chimneys. Could we have a bit more of a rigorous assessment of the “iconic” value of these chimneys in the light of the above? Dublin Bay should return to being the “lung” of the city and not the “bladder”. – Yours, etc,

MICHAEL KINSELLA

St Vincent Road,

Greystones, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Responding to Mr Laurence Vize’s plea (July 10th), I am glad to advise that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin is proposing in his amendments to the Freedom of Information Bill 2013 to confirm that the information that public bodies are currently required to include in their “Section 15” and “Section 16” FOI manuals will now be provided for in the publication schemes required under the FOI Bill.

Publication schemes for FOI are a further example of the adoption of best practice in FOI from abroad in Ireland’s FOI regime.

They will help ensure that public bodies publish more information on a proactive basis outside of FOI than has ever been the case in the past.

The legislative provision will ensure that there is no potential for a diminution of the information that public bodies are currently required to make available in the public domain.

There is no question of public bodies deciding for themselves what should be included in their publication scheme.

These must be made in accordance with a model publication scheme made by the Minister following consultation with the Information Commissioner.

The code of practice for FOI is another important innovation in the FOI Bill, whose development has benefited from the pre-legislative scrutiny of the FOI Bill by legislators and also from the important report on the operation of FOI in Ireland prepared by a group of FOI experts, academics and advocates external to the public service. A draft of the code has been published for public consultation on the department’s website. – Yours, etc,

ÁINE GRIFFIN,

Press Officer,

Department of Public

Expenditure and Reform,

Government Buildings,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Why we should think that the English funding model for higher education is one we should follow is beyond me.

The thrust to fund institutions from fee income has resulted in a number of disastrous developments, including a dependence on overseas students who can be asked to pay inflated fees but not asked to present with the necessary academic qualifications or show proper attendance at their selected course. This resulted in London Metropolitan University being fined £35 million in 2009 and more recently £6 million for over-recruiting.

Research is increasingly funded by grants to find answers to specific questions rather than to fund the brightest and best to follow their imaginations.

If universities are to serve their students, their staff and their country they need adequate funding. Fees will not produce sufficient funding, which leaves government or private and business sources as the only alternatives. – Yours, etc,

PATRICK DAVEY,

Dublin Road,

Shankill,

Dublin 18.

Irish Independent:

* Roy Orbison sang ‘It’s Over’ and Elvis Presley sang ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight’. Well it’s now official – it is over, and there are many who will be ‘Lonesome Tonight’, tomorrow night and many many other nights thereafter.

I’m sorry for the 400,000 who waited in hope that it might all be ironed out, and I am sorry to think that their few hours of enjoyment was whisked away due to planning laws.

It seems ironic that the planning laws of today were enforced and that they were the reason that the five concerts were cancelled.

It is a sad irony when you think back to what was allowed in the past when criminal builders, bankers and speculators were able to get what they wanted regardless of the planning laws, or any other laws. A sad irony to think that we the people, who never borrowed a penny of the bond holders debt, were in turn by law forced to repay every cent because Europe told us to.

There are many who will today raise a fist in victory for this outcome, but be warned, the winner of a battle does not always win the war.

I’ve only spoken to a few people who live near Croke Park, they all said as one that the GAA were decent when it came to concerts or to football or hurling finals. I hope they continue to be generous.

I’m not a fan of Garth Brooks, I did not have any tickets for the concerts but all the same I am sad for the man. Sure he’s a multi-millionaire and he has what a lot of us wish we had, but in the end he is as human as the rest, he also dreams and I’m sure he was thinking back to how it was going to be, to walk out onto a stage specially built and to feel the applause that only an Irish audience can give.

Well It’s Over and many are Lonesome Tonight

Perhaps on the cancelled concert nights if you happen to pass Croke Park you might well hear the Simon and Garfunkel song The Sound Of Silence.

FRED MOLLOY

GLENVILLE, CLONSILLA, DUBLIN 15.

Kicking the gift horse

* Nothing surprises me any more regarding our leaders.

After all we’ve seen: The Celtic Tiger, the bank guarantee… thank God that’s all gone now. But then we see the brutal mishandling of a few concerts by Garth Brooks that would have injected a much needed boost to the greater Dublin economy, along with the feel-good factor in every line dancing lover’s heart and down every hokey pokey laneway.

Those who purport to run the country appear to do nothing right. The shuffle, shuffle in the Fine Gael and Labour dark rooms has left us with little trace of women on the ministerial benches.

Enda Kenny and the Fine Gael handlers deserve the idiot of the year award for what must be frankly one of the wackiest decisions ever made – appointing Joe McHugh as Aire Na Gaeltachta? A career politician whose words in the native language would not go much beyond Pog mo Thoin. What ever happened to the 20-year plan for Irish?

Poor Dinny McGinley. The most proficient user of Gaelic in the Dail, and he gets the size 12 in the seat of his pants for his efforts. It’s no wonder that Garth gave the two fingers to them and their austerity bally-go-backwards attitudes to what was in essence kicking a gift horse in the mouth.

J WOODS

GORT AN CHOIRCE, DUN NA NGALL

Back to you in the studio

* “Unanswered prayers, Bill.”

“We’ll leave it there so, Garth.”

All together: “Okey Doke!”

ROSEMARIE WATTERS

GREYSTONES, CO WICKLOW

Fingers crossed for a washout

* Years ago I was set to go on a great sun holiday to Spain.

At the last minute I had to cancel. I was a bit upset on missing the opportunity to get a tan and relax. Lo and behold the weather in Spain was miserable that week and here, in Mayo, the sun was shining and the air was warm. I never thought about Spain for that whole week.

The point I’m getting to is that I hope it rains as hard as it has ever rained over Croke Park and just Croke Park for the dates that Garth Brooks was supposed to perform.

It will make people a little bit less angry at everyone and everything involved in this fiasco and maybe they will think about something else for those five days.

KEVIN DEVITTE

MILL STREET, WESTPORT, CO MAYO

Hope can set you free

* There is much talk on suicide prevention. Suicide as we know is at epidemic levels in this country today. It is also an area I am passionate about because of my personal experience.

Not because of an attempted suicide on my part, but because I have overcame severe depression and I believe that everyone can recover if they are committed and determined and, importantly, given the correct psychotherapeutic help.

Since I began speaking out three years ago of my own recovery I am regularly contacted by either relatives of people with mental health difficulties or sufferers themselves. They are looking for some pearls of wisdom.

The reality is that unless a person wants to help themselves and takes responsibility for their own recovery, the most caring relatives and most professional help will amount to nothing.

A person must be prepared to face their own pain in order to be able to move on from it.

A person who suffers from a diagnosed “mental illness” often has a great feeling of powerlessness with regard to their life. This sense of powerlessness pervades their entire life from personal and working relationships to even the type of career they follow.

There is hope however, and people like me have a huge amount to offer.

In ‘The Shawshank Redemption’, Red, played by Morgan Freeman, said “Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.” This may be true of a prison setting, but on the outside, sometimes hope is all we can cling on to.

In my late teens I never thought I would make it into my 20s.

Today I celebrate half a century on the planet, the last 21 years medication free.

If I can do it, anyone can do it.

TOMMY RODDY

SALTHILL, CO GALWAY

A struggle for human rights

* It is unfortunate that Israel’s apologists are trying to portray Palestinians as backward people bent on the destruction of Israel.

Terrorism is inexcusable. It is true that no people can tolerate the unrelenting barrage of rockets raining down on their homes, and no government can sit idly by while their people live in constant fear.

But what about Palestinians living under the yoke of Israel’s military occupation for decades. The West should place the Palestinian struggle within the global struggle for human rights, social justice, equity and peace. Israel’s defenders should travel to the Gaza strip and see first hand the humiliation endured by Palestinians; something reminiscent of the unmitigated anguish endured by European Jewry in the Holocaust.

Today, Palestinians are collectively punished, bombed from the air where the bomber cannot be reached by the defenceless people he just inflicted horror on. Instead of exonerating Israel, Western commentators should have a taste of what is meant by carrying out day to day activities in a tiny swathe of land, Gaza, which is the largest Robben Island prison on Earth, where the poverty rate is almost 70pc, and where unemployment has been aggravated by the continuous destruction of civilian infrastructure and the strangulation of economy.

DR MUNJED FARID AL QUTOB

LONDON NW2

Irish Independent

Reshuffle

July 16, 2014

16July2014 Reshuffle

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. A quiet day I sweep the drive

ScrabbleMarywins, but gets under 400. perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.

Obituary:

Alice Coachman – obituary

Alice Coachman was an American athlete who became the first black woman to win Olympic gold

Alice Coachman clearing the bar at a track meeting in Iowa in 1948

Alice Coachman clearing the bar at a track meeting in Iowa in 1948 Photo: AP

5:28PM BST 15 Jul 2014

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Alice Coachman, the American athlete who has died aged 90, was the first black woman from any nation to win an Olympic gold medal; at the 1948 “austerity” Games in London she won the high jump with a leap of 5ft 6 1/8in.

Her medal was presented to her at Wembley Stadium by King George VI, and Alice Coachman, as she then was, returned home a celebrity. Count Basie threw a party in her honour, and she met President Harry Truman at the White House.

Back home in Georgia she was paraded in a motorcade throughout the state, but at the official ceremony in Albany blacks and whites in the audience were segregated, the town’s white mayor refused to shake her hand and she was ushered out of the building by a side entrance. She received anonymous gifts from white admirers who did not want their neighbours to know they had sent a black woman a present.

Alice Coachman clears the bar at the 1948 London Olympics (AP)

Yet Alice Coachman remained philosophical about such things: “We had segregation, but it wasn’t any problem for me because I had won,” she recalled. “That was up to them, whether they accepted it or not.”

In fact, many did — and Alice Coachman became the first black woman to endorse an international product, Coca-Cola, appearing on billboards with the 1936 Olympic hero Jesse Owens.

Alice Coachman blazed a trail for African-American track stars like Evelyn Ashford, Florence Griffith Joyner and Jackie Joyner-Kersee; since her Olympic triumph, black women have made up a majority of the US women’s Olympic track and field team.

“I think I opened the gate for all of them,” she reflected. “Whether they think that or not, they should be grateful to someone in the black race who was able to do these things.”

Alice Coachman being interviewed in 2012 by the Olympic swimmer John Nabor (AP)

One of 10 children, Alice Marie Coachman was born in Albany on November 9 1923 to strict Baptist parents who disapproved of her love of physical activities. She recalled an occasion when her mother caught her jitterbugging, aged 11, in a local dance hall, having warned her that if she ever found her dancing she would give her a whipping: “Lord, have mercy, she wasn’t lying,” she recalled in later life. “WHUP! WHUP! Y’know what? I could run, but she was fast enough to run after me and whup my tail… Shoot, I’m almost 74 years old and I still think of that. I still feel it.”

As a child Alice ran and jumped barefoot over rags tied together in ropes, and over bamboo fishing poles. She was not allowed to train at athletics fields with whites. But, encouraged by a teacher at her high school, she was invited to enrol at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, a centre for women’s track and field sports. Although the “working” scholarship she was given meant that she had to clean the gym and the swimming pool, sew football uniforms and maintain the tennis courts, she went on to compete for the institute and later for Albany State College. She won the Amateur Athletic Union high jump championship 10 consecutive times, from 1939 to 1948, and its 50-metre outdoor title from 1943 to 1947. She also won national championships in the 100-metre sprint and the 4 x100 metre relay.

Alice Coachman’s first Olympics should have been in 1940, but the Games were cancelled because of the war, as was the 1944 event. In the run-up to the 1948 Olympics, she fell ill and was initially reluctant to go, though she eventually yielded to pressure: “I didn’t want to let my country down, or my family and school. Everyone was pushing me.”

Until her Gold medal-winning performance in the high jump (which she performed on a rainy summer’s day wearing a tracksuit top), the Games had gone badly for the US women’s track and field team. “All the fast girls we had, they would come in last. It was kind of sad,” she recalled. She was not only the only American woman to win gold, her jump set an American and Olympic record. But it was a close-run thing. Both she and Britain’s Dorothy Tyler cleared 5ft 6 1/8 in, but Alice Coachman took the Gold because she did so at her first attempt.

Her track and field career ended with the Olympics, after which she became a teacher, raised a family and created a foundation to help young and retired athletes in financial difficulties.

She was inducted into the US Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1975, and the US Olympic Hall of Fame in 2004.

Alice Coachman’s first marriage was dissolved. Her second husband, Frank Davis, predeceased her, and she is survived by a daughter and a son of her first marriage.

Alice Coachman, born November 9 1923, died July 14 2014

Guardian:

Why has Germany done so well at almost every World Cup, while England has fairly consistently failed (Sport, 15 July)? The immediate reason is the dominance of the Premier League, which recruits a high percentage of overseas players and severely restricts the development of national players. But there are deeper reasons. England itself continues to be hamstrung by a system which is mired in conflict (unions-industry /unions-government), class ridden (private schools masquerading as charities, elitist universities), dominated by short-termism (bankers, corporate heads etc) and damaged by a system which puts profit before quality products and long-term goals. People said Germany won the World Cup because the players worked as a team, and in many ways the same reason explains why the country has been so successful over the last 50 years. It explains why Germany has consistently produced many of the best cars and the best electrical products, better housing, and why VW/Audi were in China 20 years before Jaguar/LandRover, and why it has an apprenticeship programme which produces highly trained young people, while ours is, on the whole, a poorly funded and poorly regarded shadow of the German programme. Unless we in England take a more collaborative approach and focus more on long-term objectives instead of short term profit, we will always be a country characterised more by the illusion of self-importance than by achievement.
Paul Simmonds
Birmingham

Beatrix Campbell (Don’t grab a grandee, 15 July) believes Elizabeth Butler-Sloss’s report on Cleveland failed to reveal the true extent of child sexual abuse uncovered by the novel diagnosis of the doctors Higgs and Wyatt – RAD or “reflex anal dilation”. I am convinced that Butler-Sloss failed to make it clear that these paediatricians discovered nothing new at all. It is not a “myth” that their diagnosis was “all wrong”, as Campbell alleges. It was “all wrong”.

It was the RAD test that was on trial in 1987. By turning their attention to children‘s bottoms, had Higgs and Wyatt unearthed a hitherto undiscovered and horrifying degree of child sexual abuse? Referrals for abuse had been running at 25 to 40 a month before the RAD test was introduced. They rose to 81 in May and 110 in June, before falling back again when the furore began. Quite clearly, the RAD test was responsible. It was therefore important to distinguish between what might be called “RAD referrals” and routine referrals. The Butler-Sloss report failed to do so and therefore left the key question unanswered.

The courts did provide a kind of judgment. Of the 121 children diagnosed by Higgs and Wyatt, 67 were made wards of court and 27 the subject of place-of-safety orders. Social workers took children away for months at a time, allowing their parents only limited access. If the allegations of abuse were to stand up in court then the children’s evidence was vital: Wyatt told the inquiry that disclosure by children, or confession by a parent, was the “gold standard” for identifying sexual abuse.

Simon Hawkesworth QC, who represented 38 families who contested the allegations of sexual abuse of 84 children, pointed out to the inquiry: “In every case where a child has been diagnosed as sexually abused since 1 January 1987 … by Drs Higgs and Wyatt solely upon the basis of alleged physical findings (anal or genital) and where they raised the first suspicion or allegation of sexual abuse it is our submission: 1. that no court has upheld their findings; 2. that in the vast majority of [most] other cases the local authority dropped its allegations of sexual abuse or proceedings were allowed to lapse; 3. that in cases where children were already in care and the subject of allegations of other kinds of abuse, the Higgs and Wyatt diagnosis added nothing to the welfare of the children; 4. there have been no convictions of any offenders against children.”

In my view Butler-Sloss had all the evidence to conclude that the “Cleveland crisis” was the result of a false and cruel diagnosis that put a large number of quite innocent parents and children through a terrible ordeal. She failed to do so and for that reason I believe it is as well she is not going to be in charge of another, very difficult, inquiry.
Gavin Weightman
London

14 July, the day when women bishops were allowed and when the birthday of the great suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst is usually celebrated. Photograph: Heritage Images/Getty Images

The 14th of July 2014 is indeed a historic day for women (Jubilation as General Synod votes to allow women bishops, 15 July). Also 14 July is the date when the birthday of the great suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst is usually celebrated – despite the fact that her birth certificate records 15 July as the date of birth. Contrary to the popular conception, Emmeline Pankhurst campaigned not just for the parliamentary vote for women but a radical transformation of society that would end the subordinate position of the female sex. Let’s not forget all those suffragettes and suffragists, many of whom were Christian, who wanted to preach in the Church of England, including Maude Royden. They would be rejoicing too that this last bastion of patriarchy in Britain has finally fallen.
June Purvis
University of Portsmouth

• The Anglican church should be ashamed of itself. That it has taken so long for the church to reach such a basic decision is shameful, as is people celebrating the appointment of women bishops as though they had agreed a peace deal in Gaza, gratuitously pouring champagne when they could have used that moment of press coverage to highlight a real issue. The leadership of the church ought to take note. Celebrating this decision – albeit made using professional mediators and conflict management experts – to achieve the basic principle of equality does not show the church in a good light.
Ethel Caves
Ilford, Essex

• The conservative evangelical block holds that men must never be taught by women. Who potty-trained them? Not their fathers, I bet. And were their nursery and primary school teaches all male? I think not.
Penny Aldred
London

• Get it right, Guardian – deacons and priests are ordained, bishops are consecrated (In the running for ordination, 15 July). And, just to forestall error in the future, if they change dioceses they don’t just move, they are translated.
Peter Wrigley
Birstall, Yorkshire

• It’s difficult to see why gaining the right to preside over hocus-pocus in the C of E is any kind of triumph for women. Beliefs in spirit-beings and in spirit-world communication (gods and prayer) have been abandoned by almost all educated modern people. Why would anyone celebrate the fact that now women too can preside over delusional superstitions?
John Daugman
Professor of computer vision and pattern recognition, University of Cambridge

• As a feminist, of course I want more women in politics. But if I was one of those Tory women now in the cabinet (Report, 15 July), posing with their handbags, I would be furious that, as ever, women in politics are not treated fairly but at the whims of their male counterparts. They only have 10 months to the election and so no time to have any impact; after the election, they will probably be ditched or moved. And if they are so good, why weren’t they picked before? The new equalities minister is anti-gay marriage and is also education secretary – so how will she get anything done with two portfolios? Simple, she won’t need to as she’s just a token. How ironic, on the anniversary of Emmeline Pankhurst’s birth, that women are still marginalised and subject to the ruling male political class.
Debbie Cameron
Manchester

The claims made by Caroline Spelman MP (Make parliament family-friendly – Spelman, 15 July) are a complete red herring. It is simply not true to say that our rules on MPs’ accommodation stop them from being with their families. At the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), we have rightly stopped MPs from claiming second mortgages at taxpayers’ expense. Instead, we give MPs from outside London financial support to rent a property in the capital. And we give MPs with caring responsibilities an additional £2,425 for each dependant so that they can rent somewhere with more space for their children. Ipsa is committed to supporting MPs in doing their jobs and we have designed an approach which is fair, reasonable and recognises the additional challenges faced by MPs with caring responsibilities.
Marcial Boo
Chief executive, Ipsa

• I was sad to read of the death of Lorin Maazel (Report, 14 July), not merely a conductor of world-class status, but an intellectual with wide understanding of the cultural world. I met him when he conducted performances of Michael Tippett’s The Mask of Time in Cleveland. He was not only equal to the technical demands of the work, but had an acute understanding of its amazing worldwide references. His interpretation was thus both penetrating and detailed. Not many recent conductors have shown such a combination of skill and depth of insight.
Meirion Bowen
London

• The article about the revamped King’s Cross Station (All aboard the new consumer express, 15 July) certainly gave an accurate picture of all the money-making activities that go on there, but it was a shame that there was no mention of the recently unveiled Philip Larkin plaque that celebrates his poem The Whitsun Weddings. It sits on the wall between the Harry Potter display and the cash machines, dispensing poetry and wisdom 24/7 at no cost to the travelling public.
Lyn Lockwood
(Member, Philip Larkin Society), Sheffield

•  Being an avid reader of thrillers and detective stories, I thought most thieves, spooks, gang leaders and corrupt politicians used cheap mobile phones only once and then threw them into the nearest river (Amendments by Labour stall the rush to pass surveillance bill, 15 July).
Glen Gibb
Spott, East Lothian

• If you miss cliches at this level you’re gonna get punished (Letters, 15 July).
George Barrow
Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire

Everybody says we must build more houses. I agree, but we cannot build our way out of the housing crisis. Rising prices are central to the business model of the housing sector, but in the end the market depends on whether new (mainly young) households can pay these prices. They are being squeezed by increasing income inequality, debts, childcare costs and limited mortgage availability.

Some 250,000 new homes a year (double recent rates) would add only 1% to the stock, and form only 10% of the annual market. Even if we find ways to subsidise first-time buyers and renters, it would take a generation to make a significant impact.

The focus on new-build allows the government both to pose as the friend of the homeless and to reward its industry donors by releasing more greenfield land. This may be a “result” in PR terms, but it serves housebuilders, not would-be occupiers. How refreshing then that Richard Rogers (Forget about greenfield sites, build in the cities, 15 July) offers a different vision, focused on cities and brownfield use.

Viewed in isolation the housing crisis is insoluble. A strategic response requires a better economic balance between London and the rest of the country, or the south-east will continue to overheat, as housing lags labour demand. Provincial cities in the UK have productivity some 20% lower than their equivalents in Germany, Italy and France – a GDP loss of some £100bn a year. Adopting their policies for “compact, liveable cities” (as Rogers recommends) would be a good start. If George Osborne were to link his support for brownfield (Report, 13 June) and a “northern powerhouse” (Report, 23 June) we might be on the way to a credible strategy.
Alan Wenban-Smith
Urban & Regional Policy, Birmingham

• Richard Rogers is right to focus on brownfield urban development as a route to resolving our housing crisis. However, that requires an integrated approach to place-making which brings together the short-term aspirations of developers, the long-term needs of councils, the delivery objectives of key agencies such as Transport for London, appropriate fiscal incentives from government and a funding market that takes a 10- to 20-year view. Trying to achieve that across 33 local authorities is no small challenge and one which, historically, we have failed to rise to. Maybe the scale of the crisis today will change the politics and culture around housing to the much longer-term one which is needed. If it does, there is no reason to doubt that the development community will deliver what is needed – contrary to a common misconception, developers like to deliver developments.
Marc Vlessing
CEO and co-founder, Pocket

• Stuart Jeffries is a little perfunctory when it comes to the virtues of Birmingham (An ode to Birmingham, 11 July). The new public library has instantly become central to social life, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra is one of the best in the world, the place is full of fabulous restaurants. There is a vibrant cultural life and Brummies themselves are among the most engaging, amusing and creative people to be found, and the melodious cadences of Brummagem are far to be preferred to many other regional accents.

He does mention the strength of the civic tradition, and one does wonder if the neoliberals in London are hitting the city with such malicious fiscal savagery precisely because Brum offers a polity that is far more attractive, worthwhile and creative than anything Cameron and his plutocratic pals can conceive, and must, therefore, be flattened.
Michael Rosenthal
Banbury

• Our local green spaces are an essential public service for every community, and for all age groups and interests, promoting relaxation, recreation and play, wildlife and biodiversity, green jobs and skills, heritage, flood control, health and social wellbeing, and community cohesion.

As flagged up in your article (Spending cuts inspire plans to put parks at the centre of communities, 10 July) there is growing alarm about the long-term serious damage being caused by dramatic cuts to green-space budgets, and the lack of funding and investment by local and national government. If not reversed, this neglect will cause them to go into decline and see them abandoned by park users and plagued by vandalism, as happened following similar national budget cuts in the 1980s. This unfolding slide into crisis must be halted.

As the voice of the grassroots Friends Groups movement we call for the next government to:
– hold a national inquiry into UK green spaces funding and management;
– bring in a statutory duty to monitor and manage these spaces to a high-quality standard;
– ensure adequate public resources for all green spaces.
We call for all political parties to include these policies in their election manifestos.
Dave Morris
Campaigns officer, National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces

The report of the libraries all-party parliamentary group, entitled The Beating Heart of the School, last week concluded that it is vital that all schools have a good library to ensure children develop essential literacy and digital literacy skills in order to fulfil their potential. Responding, the schools minister, David Laws, said: “Reading for pleasure and study has a well-documented positive impact on children’s educational attainment across the curriculum.”

We – authors and illustrators, teachers, librarians, parents and others – are keen that this recommendation does not just become another piece of wishful thinking, and call on the Department for Education to act immediately on the report’s conclusions to gather data on library provision and instruct Ofsted to include libraries in its remit. This is urgent. Schools lost 280 librarians last year. At the very least the department should convene a working group including librarians’, authors’, headteachers’ and teachers’ representatives to draw up an action plan to realise the aim of a good library in every school.
Alan Gibbons Campaign for the Book, Kevin Crossley-Holland President, School Library Association, Andrew Motion, Michael Holroyd, Kathy Lette, Malorie Blackman, Children’s laureate, Barbara Band President, Cilip, Jacky Atkinson Organiser, Kid’s Lit Quiz, John Dougherty Chair, Children’s Writers and Illustrators Group, Society of Authors, Rachel Kelly Chief executive, Reading Matters, Christine Blower General secretary, National Union of Teachers, Kevin Courtney Deputy general secretary, National Union of Teachers, Alex Kenny Chair of education and equality, National Union of Teachers, Nicola Solomon Chief executive, Society of Authors, Melvin Burgess, Philip Pullman, Anne Fine, Roger McGough, Michael Rosen, David Almond, Francesca Simon, Mal Peet, Meg Rosoff, Robert Muchamore, Anne Cassidy, Cathy Cassidy, Tim Bowler, Steve Cole, Beverley Naidoo, Jeremy Strong, Malcolm Rose, Matt Haig, MG Harris, Brenda and Robert Swindells, Mary Hoffman, Lucy Coats, Rhiannon Lassiter, Linda Newbery, Chris Priestley, Paul Dowswell, Sandra Horn, Andy Seed, Rachel Ward, Nina Simon, Bali Rai, Candy Gourlay, Nicola Morgan, Berlie Doherty, Keren David, Lynne Garner, Korky Paul, Trevor Wilson Authors Abroad, Vanessa Harbour, Chrissie Gittins, Kevin Cowdall, Jonathan Neale, Nick Arnold, Shoo Rayner, Jean Ure, Mary Hooper, Lynn Huggins-Cooper, Anne Rooney, Bernard Ashley, Elizabeth Laird, Penny Dolan, Julia Golding, Ross Bradshaw, Emma Pass, Lynn Breeze, Lyn Brown, Caroline Pitcher, Caroline Aperguis, John Townsend, Ruth Eastham, Michael Dance, Joanna De Guia, Julie Sykes, Keith Law, Alan Summers, Barbara Egglesfield, Jane Collier, Jackie Marchant, Pamela Manley, Michelle Perrott, Ann Robson, Lesley Martin, James Carter, Kathy Evans, Linda Sargent, Nick Lens, June Taylor, Rebecca Colby, Jayne Truran, Mrs Plowman, Pauline Lindsay, Linda Evans, Myfanwy Fox, Anne Robinson, Beverley Humphrey, Alison Cresswell, Ann Giles, Annie Everall, Gill Duane, Sue Dixon, Laura Taylor, Lesley Hurworth, Jeannie Waudby, Suzanne Nubold, Julie Higgins, Sam Hepburn, Andrea Dooley, Sally Kincaid, Nick Grant, Phil Bradley, Carol Williams, Nikki Hussey, Catherine Watkins, Alison McDonald, Julia Green, Carrie Etter, Ros Asquith, Keith Gray, Jon Berry, Karen Argent, Rikin Parekh, Sue Hampton, Dave Cryer, Andrew Taylor, Doug Wright, Pam Jakeman, Jean Bowden, Miriam Moss, Susan Donnelly, Victoria Barton, Catherine Noble, Oona Kelly, Dawn Finch, Joss O’Kelly, John Pilkington, Alexander Gordon-Smith, Kay Waddilove, Anne Mitchell, Als Dolman, Sally Prue, Margaret Bone, Nicholas Gary, Collette Shine, Sandra Bell, Adam Guillain, RS Gregory, John Walker, Pat Thomson, Janet Ousby, Alexandra Strick, P Hazlehurst, Rhys Williams, Liz Wren, Angela Grant, Hilary Freeman, Wendy Davies, Thasya Elliott, Mary Bryning, Moira Munro, Jo McCrum, Kate Snow, Lorraine French, Anne Clayton, Rhian Lane, Sue Biggs, Doreen Montgomery, Ann Montgomery, Pam Doster, Alan Nash, Jane Hughes, Isabella Coles, Alison Goodhand, Kevin Donovan, Jackie Hamley, Helen Ledger, Wendy Mitchell, Mark Gallagher, Annmarie Young, Anthony Robinson, Lisa Miles, Richard Rose, Sara Tomlinson, Philip Caveney, Jo Cotterill, Chris White, Andrew Blackman, Paula Ward, Anne Sebba, Karen Lamb, Janet Edgcumbe, Gareth Lewis, Cecilia Busby, Richard Mabey, Duncan Pile, Helen Watts, Hilary Chuter, Asa Benstead, Elaine Cline, Katherine Langrish, Fiona Crawford, Jen Macpen, Ruth Clarke, Salman Shaheen Journalist, principal speaker, Left Unity, Michael O’Connor, Dean Coombes

• Am I the only Guardian reader to remember with pleasure Steve Bell’s cartoon strip in French, rather than Franglais (If…, G2, all last week), earlier in his career? Madame Truc and her cat – always referred to by her as “Sale bête” – were a highlight of one of the magazines for young learners at school published by Mary Glasgow in the 1970s.
Jane Harvey
Monmouth

Last week, the University of London announced that at the end of July it would shut down its student newspaper, London Student, after nearly a century in production. London Student prints over 12,000 copies a fortnight in term time, making it the largest independent student newspaper in the country and in Europe.

University of London students have had a student-run newspaper funded by the university since the early 20th century. From the 1920s to 1954 the paper was called Vincula (meaning chain or link in Latin); in 1954 it changed its name to Sennet; and in 1979 it assumed its current name. London Student and its predecessors have provided University of London students with a campaigning news source and a unique opportunity to work in journalism for nearly one hundred years.

Over the past year, London Student has reported critically on the university and its activities. The newspaper has exposed senior university management for taking trips costing tens of thousands of pounds to luxury spa hotels on expense accounts. It took a critical stance when the university repeatedly called the police and prosecuted its own students for protesting (some of the cases are still ongoing). It exposed the university’s use of unpaid internships, in contradiction to its own careers service’s policy. It reported that the majority of staff at Senate House are critical of management restructuring plans. As with the closure of the University of London Union (ULU), there are political overtones to the university’s abrupt planned closure of the newspaper.

London Student is one of the few student-led outlets where students can learn and exercise the critical skills they will need to challenge orthodoxy and power; shutting it down is an affront to free and radical thought on campuses, and is an insult to future generations of students. As the many names below indicate, alumni of London Student are some of the most successful and passionate journalists working in the industry today and are excellent examples of the employability of University of London graduates; shutting London Student down to save costs makes little or no sense. We, the undersigned, oppose the university management’s planned closure of the newspaper and demand that they reconsider the scrapping of such an important and valued institution.
Hilary Aked
Editor, London Student, 2009-10
Lila Allen
Editor, London Student, 2003-04
Anita Anand
Presenter, Any Answers, BBC Radio 4
Kevin Ashton
Author and technologist; editor of London Student, 1994-95
Emily Barr
Novelist and journalist
Dr Alice Bell
Journalist and science policy writer
Aditya Chakrabortty
Senior economics commentator, the Guardian
Simon Childs
Senior editor, Vice News UK
Louise Clarke
Institute for Social and Economic Research; editor, London Student, 1991-92
Marie Le Conte
Freelance journalist
Anthony Cullen
Photographer
Charlie Damant
Teacher
Donnacha DeLong
President, National Union of Journalists 2011-12
Jenny Diski
Author and journalist
Alexi Duggins
Editor-at-large, Time Out; editor, London Student, 2004-05
Ian Dunt
Editor in chief, Politics.co.uk
Michael Edwards
Lecturer, The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London
Dr Kevin Fong
Scientist, author and BBC television presenter
Dr Andy Fugard
University College London
Professor David Graeber
London School of Economics
Gareth Grundy
Deputy editor, Observer Food Monthly
John Handelaar
Director, Kildarestreet.com; editor, London Student, 1997-98
Mike Herd
Editor, Guardian Cities; editor, London Student 1992-93
Jen Izaakson
Editor, London Student, 2012-13
Thomas Jones
Contributing editor, London Review of Books
John Kenchington
Editor, London Student, 2006-07
Henry Langston
Editor, Vice News UK
Kat Lay
Journalist at the Times; editor, London Student, 2008-09
Gideon Lichfield
Global news editor, Quartz
Dr Simon J Lock
University College London
Dr Felicity Mellor
Imperial College London
Tom Mendelsohn
Student editor, the Independent
Andrew North
Foreign correspondent
Ben Oliver
Journalist; editor, London Student, 1995-96
Dr Peter Mitchell
Queen Mary, University of London
Judith Moritz
Correspondent
Laurie Penny
Author and contributing editor, New Statesman
Sarah Phillips
Assistant editor, Comment is Free, the Guardian
Charlie Porter
Journalist
Amol Rajan
Editor in chief, the Independent
Adam Ramsay
Contributing editor, Open Democracy
Professor Jane Rendell
The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London
Joe Rennison
Editor, London Student, 2010-11
Natasha Roe
Director, Red Pencil Consultancy; editor, London Student, 1990-91
Professor Lynne Segal
Birkbeck, University of London
Sarah Shenker
Journalist; editor, London Student, 1996-97
Lucy Sherriff
Journalist, Huffington Post
Michelle Stanistreet
General secretary, National Union of Journalists
Daniel Trilling
Editor, New Humanist
Patrick Ward
Editor, London Student, 2005-06
Oscar Webb
Editor, London Student, 2013-14
Chris Wheal
Journalist
Hesham Zakai
Content editor, Trade and Export Finance (TXF); editor, London Student 2011-12
Elinor Zuke
Editor, London Student, 2007-08

Your editorial (4 July) on Obama’s “foreign policy legacy” concludes that no solution will work “if policy is fundamentally mistaken”. You call for strong leadership, but your editorial hardly acknowledges the complexity of the situation.

Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq, who is supposed to represent all the people, is Shia, the majority religion of Iraq. He excludes Sunnis, the former rulers of Iraq, from power. Isis, the rebel group fighting Maliki and the Shia majority in Iraq, is Sunni.

Bashar al-Assad, the bloody dictator of Syria, is Shia, but most of the Syrians are Sunni. It is the Sunni who are rebelling in Syria.

Iran is Shia. Thus, the interests of Shia Iran lie with the Shia majority of Iraq, and with fellow Shia ruler Assad.

Saudi Arabia is Sunni, the most fundamentalist version of that ordinarily tolerant interpretation of Islam. Saudi Arabia’s interest is with the Sunni rebels in Iraq and Syria, which they support and fund.

Republican US senators think that we should help out the Syrian “moderates” and under pressure Obama is in favour of selectively arming the “moderates”. But who are the “moderates?”

Obama is trying to open up dialogue with Iran so that Shia Iran can restrain Maliki and possibly forge a policy that keeps Iraq together. Meanwhile, Isis wants to set up a caliphate or Sunni government that includes Syria and Iraq.

I doubt that the CIA or the US government knows the basic points any better than Guardian readers. So I ask, what would you do if you were Obama?
Stephen Petty
Bendorf-Stromberg, Germany

EU system is not nonsense

Andrew Rawnsley states that “the notion that the European elections gave [Jean-Claude Juncker] a sort of ‘popular mandate’ to be president of the commission is a nonsense” (Cameron’s defeat was dire, 4 July). I take exception to the word “nonsense”. It conveys a total contempt for the wishes of the European electorate. How did David Cameron get his own job? By being the leader of the parliamentary group that polled highest in the last general election – a principle well-established in parliamentary democracy.

The spitzenkandidaten system was propagated in Germany before the election. The reason why Angela Merkel finally backed it is that she had actually endorsed it, and Juncker, before the election, and not in any sort of U-turn, as some commentators intimate.

The principle was also propagated throughout Europe before the election, eg in US-style TV debates hosted by the BBC and others. It is also backed up by the following statement by the Greek Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras, the head of a party not particularly favourable to Germany or Merkel, who said: “The presentation of any other nominee would effectively discredit the entire recent election, turning it, after the fact, into a charade. This is a basic democratic principle. It is a moral obligation of the European Council to put forward the candidate who secured the leading position in the European election.”

I cast my vote on the premise that the European parliament would have a say in the choice of the commission president. What I miss in the opposite view as expressed by Rawnsley (in an otherwise perceptive article) is what the alternative to the spitzenkandidaten system would look like – presumably the appointment of some second-rate, no-name candidate as a result of the traditional backroom haggling process. Tsipras has got it dead right.
James Hotchkiss
Haltern am See, Germany

• Andrew Rawnsley’s piece discusses the PM’s failure to effectively veto the nomination of Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European commission. While some EU national leaders might have had their own misgivings about his suitability for the job, they displayed quasi-unanimity about Cameron’s opposition, choosing to ignore his complaints.

This is much more than a tactical defeat for Cameron. It seems that the more enthusiastic participants in the European project prefer to deal with an uninspiring European rather than a whinging Brit. This should put pay to Cameron’s strategic ambitions to redesign the EU to his own specifications.
G B Levine
Gozo, Malta

How to avoid hypocrisy

It’s quite problematic that Greenpeace’s international programme director was caught commuting by plane. I don’t know about this case but, otherwise, Zoe Williams (4 July), puts it brilliantly: “The best way to never be a hypocrite, and to always stay consistent, is to deny climate change and have no agenda on anything beyond self-interest”.

So true! As an environmental militant, I’m often told that what I do is not the right thing to do, and are the leaflets I’m holding out really made of recycled paper? etc.
Marc Jachym
Les Ulis, France

Absurd safety rules

Steven Poole’s review of the book In the Interests of Safety describes some absurd safety rules for air travellers (11 July). My own travel experience has included various incidents of inconsistent “rules”. One one occasion, when travelling from Heathrow to Canada, I was told by the security personnel that I could not take on board a small box of forks that I had been given as a gift. This necessitated the purchase of a bag so that I could check in the forks, my other luggage having already been processed. I was, however, allowed to take with me my metal knitting needles and, not surprisingly, we were also provided with metal forks (as well as knives) to eat our meals in the business cabin of the plane.
Avril Taylor
Dundas, Ontario, Canada

As long as we can buy

It’s encouraging to hear that pressure from consumer groups and subsequently from companies and from governments has driven the warlords out of the coltan mines in the Congo (20 June). And it is good news that wages are up by 40%. But that is 40% of what?

As far as I can see, the electronics giants are still raking in their billions and we, the consumers, are still more than happy to buy cheap or chic “stuff” while those miners (whether employed by warlords or by someone else) dig out those minerals for a pittance.

We in the west seem to welcome any development that makes us feel better about our “retail experience” (eg the exclusion of the warlords) so long as that development doesn’t affect the prices that we pay.
Alan Mitcham
Cologne, Germany

Hacking coverage hailed

Nick Davies’s article on the Brooks/Coulson trial (4 July) was a wonderful piece of reporting. It was able to summarise three years of trial data in a story that weaved you through the facts of the case, the subterfuge of News International, the artistry of the defensive legal councils and the Crown Prosecution Service’s David and Goliath attempt at serving justice. It read like a bestseller by John Grisham, but sadly this story is true and at the end of it, I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth, that justice had not been served.

Kudos to the Guardian Weekly, and the ancillary articles covering this story, pointing to a broken justice system lacking in funding, and moral fibre.
Nick Guise
Andover, Massachusetts, US

Briefly

• Having just finished WikiLeaks by David Leigh and Luke Harding and Luke Harding’s The Snowden Files, I feel devastated, but proud to be a subscriber to Guardian Weekly.
Hilary Bergeretti
La Buisse, France

• In Life after war for Colombia’s rebels (27 June), Nick Miroff writes that the reintegration of the former Farc rebels includes teaching them “basic life skills, such as how to use an ATM, sign up for Facebook, and schedule a doctor’s appointment”. When did Facebook become a basic life skill as important as having access to your money and healthcare?
Ken Burns
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

• Three cheers for the brave victims and inevitable demise of disgraced entertainer Rolf Harris (11 July). Some may suggest he be sentenced to transportation to the former British colony of Australia, for the term of his natural life, a place from whence he came.
Carmelo Bazzano
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

• On reading Simon Hattenstone’s piece on celebrity misdemeanours (11 July), the French word mythomane came to mind. The dictionary says “compulsive liar”. Being on another planet would probably sum it up, but the phrase does not really do it justice. These people live on another plane; psychology must have something to say on the matter.
E Slack
L’Isle Jourdain, France

Please send letters to weekly.letters@theguardian.com

Independent:

Times:

Sir, Melanie Phillips advocates a European style social insurance system to solve the NHS’s financial problems due to increased demand and chronic underfunding, but it is very debatable whether this would give us better care (July 14).

The recent independent American Commonwealth Fund survey compared the healthcare systems of 11 countries including Germany, the Netherlands, France, the US and the UK. The NHS was ranked first overall and first in eight of the 11 indicators assessed, including effective care, patient-centred care, safety and cost effectiveness. The survey also compared the cost per capita of the various systems. The NHS cost considerably less than all 11 countries surveyed except New Zealand, which ranked much lower overall in terms of quality of care.

It is profoundly demoralising for those of us who work in the NHS to constantly read criticism of a health care system which is viewed by observers from other countries as a gold standard for access and extremely good value for money.

Dr Mike Betterton

Skelton, near Redcar

Sir, The problem with the NHS is that it defies the laws of economics. If you have a provider of services which are greatly in demand, and free, demand will always outstrip supply. The only way a system can cope is rationing — hence in the NHS waiting lists, non-availability of medicines or services deemed too expensive, and the failure to construct and provide new facilities. Unlike a private provider, the NHS cannot meet increased demand by funding extra services through the extra profits generated by that greater demand. Since inception it has lurched from one crisis to another while patients become more vociferous about waiting times, inadequate services and poor care.

It is high time we looked at how other countries, particularly Europe, fund health care. At the least we deserve a proper debate on whether continuing the NHS is the right way to deliver services for the future.

Julian Holloway

London SW12

Sir, Figures for 2012 show that if each patient paid their GP £137 a year, general practice could take itself out of political control and interference. For this sum, GPs could run the practice entirely as they do now and their income would be unchanged. Those unable to pay this fee could have it paid for by a government health grant. The regulation of this new system and the setting of health priorities and maintaining standards could be run by a new body overseen by doctors and others who can take a long-term view of needs. A fixed annual fee could save the Exchequer at least, on current figures, £10 billion a year.

Dr Richard Willis

Salisbury

Sir, The costliest users of the NHS are people with chronic conditions who need more person-centred, preventative and community based services, very different from the largely hospital dominated model that we currently have. The NHS and other European systems are inching towards new types of services. It will be necessary to build support for change and tackle vested interests. I hope The Times will continue, as it has done in recent leaders, to explain why changes are needed.

Lord Crisp

Chief executive, NHS, and permanent secretary, Department of Health 2000-06

The Assisted Dying bill is making progress but the debates about the issue continue to be fierce

Sir, Those who oppose the Assisted Dying bill should realise that care and compassion for the disabled, elderly and dying are very much in short supply these days.

Margaret Vickers

Mickleover, Derby

Sir, As an oncologist I witnessed death approaching several patients. Most died but several are still alive, against all odds. One patient with negligible life expectancy in the face of an aggressive, rapidly advancing and difficult-to-treat cancer endured long, intensive chemotherapy. Thirty years later I went to her wedding.

Many oncologists have witnessed the “Lazarus effect”. Legislation should not take this away.

Spyros Retsas

Park Hill, Essex

Sir, John Sharpe’s appeal to Socrates in support of the Assisted Dying bill may not lend the support he supposes (letter, July 15). Socrates’ death was unnecessary and, in modern terms, resulted from a miscarriage of justice.

If Socrates teaches us anything about assisted dying, it is that the elderly can feel obliged to accept death for the convenience of society.

Jon Mack

London EC4

Sir, The Assisted Dying bill is a response to the fact that, despite the best efforts of end-of-life care, a significant minority of dying people suffer against their wishes in the last days of life (Assisted dying and the meaning of compassion, letters July 14). Some dying people have to rely on loved ones to assist them to die or to take matters into their own hands to control their death, often causing significant distress. Within legal safeguards, the bill will enable dying people who wish to choose when they die, to do so at home, peacefully and with their loved ones.

This compassionate response is not a trade-off with patient safety. The bill provides for both. The law as it stands turns a blind eye to amateur assistance to die, so long as after the death there is no evidence of abuse or coercion. As set out by the president of the Supreme Court, a process of legal safeguards in advance of someone dying would better protect people. The Assisted Dying bill would ensure that a dying patient’s diagnosis, prognosis and mental capacity were confirmed and that they are making a clear and settled decision. It would also ensure that they were making an informed decision aware of all their care and treatment options, crucially when they are still alive and are able to change their mind.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

Lord Aberdare

Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top

Earl of Arran

Baroness Blackstone

Lord Blair of Boughton

Baroness Brinton

Lord Cobbold

Lord Dholakia

Gender issues aside, it is time for the Church of England to stop shillyshallying about and show its mettle

Sir, The main argument against female bishops is more or less to read the Bible and not be misled by political correctness. Taking this into consideration, we’ll also come across calls for animal sacrifice, killing naughty children, and ambiguous references to slavery. What then?

Such scriptures have no place in modern Britain because they were written for a different time and place, and insisting it is God’s law that women are still unequal requires a very narrow, literal and selective quotation of scripture to be justified.

Christian institutions have long thrashed believers with reasons to exclude others from full participation but such anti-inclusiveness grows more irrelevant as time goes by.

Considering how many women have been Supreme Governor of the Anglican Church since it was established, has gender really ever been an issue?

Emilie Lamplough

Trowbridge, Wiltshire

Sir, Let us hope that the bickering about gender in the Anglican Church has now come to an end. Women priests have proved no better and no worse than men. What is needed now is for the ordained ministry as a whole to begin to show its mettle as a force for good beyond the contribution of lay Christians.

Many priests appear content to enjoy the pleasures of their calling without offering their dwindling congregations any real comfort in their daily lives. Demands for the Parish Share are met, by and large, by hard-pressed widows and suck the little they have away from the communities in which they live. A fleeting visit by a priest once a month to give communion is little reward for their efforts and passes unnoticed by the population at large.

The clergy of both sexes need to ask themselves what they are for when many parishes, in the absence of clerical cover, are now served so well by lay people conducting services and providing community support.

WGM Wood

Salisbury

Do you patronise your local independent bookstore or do you buy online?

Sir, I have every sympathy with Peter and Eleanor Davies (letter, July 14) who run an independent bookshop. If our nearest town had one, if that town were not eight miles away, and if there were a regular bus, I would certainly patronise it. But for those of us in the depths of the country Amazon is the only viable solution.

Do I consider its tax position and employment conditions? Yes, I do. Am I happy about them? No. Why, then, do I use it? Because increasingly it carries items I cannot obtain in the local town, and delivers them to my front door. And yes, it’s cheaper — a serious consideration for pensioners.

Laura Hicks

Portesham, Dorset

Sir, I recently ordered a book at a local bookshop; the shopkeeper obtained it by buying it on Amazon.

Nikhil Kaushik

Wrexham

Weighing the damage done by bats in churches against their importance as a vulnerable creature

Sir, I applaud the V&A’s efforts to raise £5 million to buy Benedetto da Rovezzano’s bronze angels for the unfinished tomb of Cardinal Wolsey (July 11). However, it is ironic that the work of coeval London sculptors of equal or greater merit, such as Maximilian Colt and Nicholas Stone, is endangered by uncontrolled bat excretion. These artists, represented in Westminster Abbey by the tombs of Elizabeth I (Colt) and William Camden (Stone), also made monuments in many parish churches, where bats are rife. The effect of bat urine on notable monumental brasses suggests that Benedetto’s angels would not last long in many churches: at least they will be safe in the V&A.

Professor Norman Hammond

Cambridge University

Telegraph:

SIR – The idea that weight-loss surgery will reduce the incidence of obesity-related disease is frankly naive.

The problem is that individuals who are morbidly obese already have those disorders associated with their condition. Such surgery is not without potential for serious complications.

Furthermore, spare a thought for the poor surgeons who have to manipulate these patients in the operating room. In my 35 years as a surgeon, no lifting aids have ever been provided to assist the positioning and manoeuvring of the increasingly heavy subjects we are expected to treat.

AN Wilson is right: prevention will be far more effective than apparent quick fixes.

David Nunn FRCS
London SE3

SIR – When my mother was at school in the Thirties, she was taught how to make nutritious meals using simple, affordable ingredients. It was known as “cookery”.

The suggestion that we should operate on the nation’s fatties is evidence of a failure to teach entire generations how to feed themselves properly.

R S Bridger
Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire

SIR – It is to be expected that few children play outside, when tax policies discourage the provision of suitable play facilities.

For seven years I’ve been working with others to create a sport and play park in an area lacking outdoor recreational space. We have to pay 20 per cent VAT. Had we developed a sports hall or community building, VAT would not be payable.

A coherent government policy to reduce childhood obesity and improve fitness levels seems as remote as ever.

Roger Backhouse
Ilford, Essex

Seeds of destruction

SIR – Though the red aril surrounding yew seeds is sweet and harmless (Letters, July 14), the seed itself is highly toxic.

Unbroken, it will pass through the body without being digested; but if the seed is chewed, poisoning can occur after as few as three berries. According to British Poisonous Plants (1976), “the commonest symptom of yew poisoning is sudden death … usually within five minutes of what appears to be a convulsion.”

Roger Croston
Christleton, Chesire

Priced out of a pint

SIR – Noisy children or not, Mark Prior (Letters, July 12) should be thankful that he still has a pub to drink in.

In last Thursday’s Daily Telegraph there was an advertisement from a well-known supermarket chain, offering 15 cans containing 440ml of Australian lager for £9. This works out at less than 78p a pint.

Small wonder that pubs are closing down when they themselves cannot buy beer at that price.

Roy Bailey
Hungerford, Berkshire

In a jam

SIR – In the days when many people were without fridges (Letters, July 14), we kept jars full of jams, marmalades and mustards quite successfully in cupboards or larders.

Nowadays the instructions on these jars state: “Store in fridge after opening”. These items take up a great amount of space. What have the manufacturers put in, or left out, to cause them to need refrigeration?

Joyce Smith
Worcester Park, Surrey

Missing artists

SIR – Peter Goodfellow (Letters, July 12) suggests that Hirst and Emin are the two most notable post-war British artists.

Has he never heard of Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Graham Sutherland, Ben Nicholson, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Howard Hodgkin, Peter Blake, Frank Auerbach or David Hockney?

Keith Pearce
Penzance, Cornwall

Figure of Eight

SIR – I am indebted to Tim Deane (Letters, July 12) for his reference to an Eightsome Reel, thereby enabling me to complete 6 down in Saturday’s Quick Crossword. I wonder what the statistical likelihood would be of that dance appearing twice in one edition?

Karen Hart
Sheffield, South Yorkshire

Why the Elgin Marbles are in the right place

SIR – With respect to Lord Lexden (Letters, July 11), it is most appropriate for the Elgin Marbles to be housed in the British Museum, albeit in the Duveen Galleries.

He is correct: Joseph Duveen (1869-1939) made a fortune buying for a song and selling to the rich. That is business.

But today, we are the beneficiaries of his “lavish donations” to museums. Any person from any country can visit the Elgin Marbles at the British Museum, any day of the week, free of charge.

Jane Cochrane
Long Melford, Suffolk

SIR – Lord Lexden’s evident distaste for art dealers seems to have clouded his historical judgment of Joseph Duveen. Far from paying “impoverished” British aristocrats “a song” for their works of art, he helped create a market for portraits of their 18th and 19th century ancestors that has been barely matched today in monetary, let alone real, terms.

The astonishing prices paid for these and other Old Masters (Duveen’s records survive, as do records of the prices paid at auction) led to an exodus of great works of art to America, because politicians refused to fund adequately the acquisition budgets of Britain’s museums.

As for the Elgin Marbles, these were bought not by an art dealer but by a wealthy Scottish nobleman from a corrupt Ottoman administration at a time when the impoverished Greeks could not possibly have hoped to have retained them.

Guy Sainty
London W1

SIR – At the new Acropolis Museum in Athens, there is a gap in the frieze where the Marbles should be. Now many of us can travel the world easily, would it not be a gesture of international goodwill to return them to where they belong?

Rev Herbert Baker
Enfield, Middlesex

SIR – Rebuilding trust in business and public services will prove impossible without radical improvements in the quality of leadership and management.

Are British managers myopic short-termists or long-term-growth visionaries? Those who cut costs often earn more respect for their “hard-nosed” decisions than those who take innovative paths to growth. Public-sector organisations and social enterprises can also be guilty of putting financial targets before service delivery and social value.

Boards must refocus on their organisation’s social purpose beyond just making money, setting measurable commitments not only to investors but to customers, suppliers, employees, communities and the environment.

We need to recruit managers for their attitudes and values, training them to inspire and support people, and rewarding them not only for their results, but on how they get them. Managers must build for the future, working with our education system to nurture new leaders and give them access to the world of work. Managers must create value for all stakeholders: shareholders, society and staff alike. Our global competitiveness depends on it.

Peter Ayliffe CCMI
President, Chartered Management Institute
Barry Sheerman MP
Chair, The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Management
Lord Karan Bilimoria CBE DL
Chairman and Founder, Cobra Beer
Dame Carol Black DBE CCMI
Principal, Newnham College, Cambridge
Tamara Box
Global Co-Chair of the Financial Industry Group, Reed Smith
Professor Sir Cary L Cooper CBE CCMI
Distinguished Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health, Lancaster University Management School
Hushpreet Dhaliwal
Chief Executive, National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs
Jez Frampton CCMI
Global Chief Executive, Interbrand
Ann Francke CCMI
Chief Executive, Chartered Management Institute
Professor Abby Ghobadian
Head of School of Leadership, Organisations and Behaviour, Henley Business School
Dr Jules Goddard
Fellow, London Business School
Lord Simon Haskel
Peer, House of Lords
John Hemming MP
MP for Birmingham Yardley
Mark Hoban MP
MP for Fareham
Dr Liz Jackson MBE CCMI
Founder, Great Guns Marketing
Darren Jarvis
Chief Auditor, Global Institutional Client Group, Citigroup
Sir Paul Judge CCMI
Chairman, Schroder Income Growth Fund Plc
Seema Malhotra MP
MP for Feltham and Heston
Derek Mapp CCMI
Chairman, Informa
Dame Mary Marsh CCMI
Founding Director, Clore Social Leadership Programme
Lord Parry Mitchell
Enterprise Adviser, Labour Party
Terry Morgan CBE CCMI
Chair, Crossrail
Meg Munn MP
MP for Sheffild Heeley
Baroness Margaret Prosser OBE
Peer, House of Lords
Dr Martin Read CBE CCMI
Chairman, Laird Plc, Low Carbon Contracts Company, Electricity Settlements Company and Remuneration Consultants Group
Lynva Russell
Director, Policy Connect
David Rutley MP
MP for Macclesfield
Andy Sawford MP
MP for Corby
Andrew Summers CCMI
Former Chair, Companies House
Paul Polman
Chief Executive, Unilever
Nicolas Huss
Chief Executive Officer, Visa Europe
Alison Munro
Chief Executive, HS2 Ltd
Adrian Ringrose
Chief Executive, Interserve Plc
Alastair Lukies CBE
Chief Executive, Monitise
Duncan Cheatle
CEO, Prelude Group (including the Supper Club); Co-Founder, StartUp Britain
Steve Henry CCMI
Founder & CEO, Decoded
Cary Marsh
CEO, Mydeo
Thomas Lawson
Chief Executive, Leap Confronting Conflict
Sean Taggart
Chief Executive, Albatross Group
Fraser Harper
CEO, E-Gistics Ltd
Timothy Brownstone
CEO, KYMIRA
Peter Cheese
Chief Executive, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
Anne Godfrey
Chief Executive, Chartered Institute of Marketing
Simon Osborne FCIS
Chief Executive, Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators
Nigel Fine
Chief Executive, Institute of Engineering and Technology
Charles Elvin
CEO, Institute of Leadership and Management
Loreen Macklin
CEO, thinkMonday Ltd
Andrew Doukanaris
CEO, Flotta Consulting Ltd
Andy Holcroft
CEO, RehabWorks Ltd
Terry Corby
Founder & CEO, Differentz.com
Sandra Macleod
CEO, Mindful Reputation
Ry Morgan
Co-founder / CEO, PleaseCycle Ltd
Dr Francis Agbana
CEO, Life Builders International
Alex Cheatle
CEO and Founder, Ten Lifestyle Management Ltd
Lee Travers
CEO, Clareo Potential
Luke Murrell
CEO Co-founder, MMV Sense Ltd
Mike Lander
Founder and Director, ProfitFlo
Edward Hawkins MCMI
Owner, Edward Hawkins Consulting
Steven Hess
Founder, Whitecap
Peter Neville Lewis
Founder, Principled Consulting
Marianne Abib-Pech
Founder, LeadTheFuture
Geoffrey Maddrell
Chairman, Human Recognition Systems
Kevin Murray
Chairman, The Good Relations Group
Sebastian Crawshaw
Chairman, OATS Limited
Britta Bomhard
President Europe, Church and Dwight
Maggie Buggie
VP Global Head Digital Sales and Markets, Capgemini
Professor Peter Tomkins CCMI
CEO, DM Management Consultants Ltd
Bridget Blow CBE CCMI
Andy Weston-Webb
Managing Director, Birdseye
Ian Feast
Managing Director UK Operations, Sixt rent a car
Maria Bourke
Managing Director, Let’s Get Healthy
Jonathan Bruce
Managing Director, Prestige Nursing Ltd
Jane Gomez
Managing Director, Prelude Group
David Broadhead
Managing Director, Partners in Management Ltd
Dominick Sutton
Managing Director; Content, BoardEx
Greg Gotttig CMgr FCMI
Managing Director, Warner House Co Ltd
Dr Veronica Broomes
Managing Director, Executive Solutions Training Ltd
Greg Park
Managing Director, PCM Consulting
Ian Watson
Operations Chairman, The Lamberhurst Corporation
Oliver Wallace
Senior HR Business Partner, Balfour Beatty
Gillian Wilmot
NED (Winner 2014 NED Awards), NISA, ELEXON, IDAB, Board Mentoring
Ed Fothergill
Head of Leadership and Talent Development, O2 (Telefonica UK)
Michelle Maynard
Head of Talent and Organisation Development, Thomas Cook
Jenny Peters
Group Head of Communications, Thomas Cook
Petra Wilton
Director of Strategy and External Affairs, Chartered Management Institute
Meribeth Parker
Group Publishing Director, Hearst Magazines
Michael Whitmore
Director of International Wellbeing, Optum
Lawrence Dobie
Director of Rail Engineering, Shorterm Group
Phil Sproston
Sales Director, Sodexo
Gideon Schulman
Director
Jennifer Chizua
Founder, Director, Elite Sports International Clubs
Richard Kiernan
Director, Timeox Projects
Rod Willis
Director, Assentire
Ian Dalling
Director, Unified Management Solutions
Fiona Stevenson
Director, Coalition for Efficiency
Kul Verma
Director, Deep Insight
Richard Byford
Director, ForeVu Ltd
Dr Raymond Rowe FCMI
Director, Execair Cargo Services Limited / Apercu Limited
Dr Helen Carter
Director, Genesis Creative
Dr William Tate DProf., MA, FRSA, FCIPD, MCMI
Director, The Institute for Systemic Leadership
Robert Wilson
Director, LTRL
Anita Wild MSc, CMngr FCMI, Chartered MCIPD, FITOL, MAC
Director, ADG
Michael Priestley FCMI
Director, Northstar Property Ltd
Derek Moore FCMI
Director, D Moore Business Advisory Ltd
Martin Horton
Director, Martin Horton Consulting Ltd
Emma Cox
Executive Director, Strategy & Communications, Chartered Quality Institute
Victoria Michael-Dick
Director, Angel International GB
Katherine Galliano
Director People & Culture, VisionFund
Jan Gillett
Deputy Chair, Process Management International Ltd
Andrew Manig FCMI
Director, Manig
Mark Pegg CCMI
Director
Joel Campbell
Head of E-Wellness, Ultrasis PLC
Dr Elizabeth Halford
Head of Research, Information and Enquiry, QAA
Stephen Asher
Head of Global Mobility Services, Mazars LLP
Simon Greenhalgh
Chief Financial Officer, DMW Group
Yvonne Tomlin CMgr FCMI
Head of Community Education, Merton Adult Education
Buddhi Weerasinghe FCMI
Director, Elusion Group
Ian MacEachern OBE CMgr FCMI
Trustee, Chartered Management Institute
Professor Robin Field-Smith MBE CMgr CCMI
Ethics Research Advisory Group, Chartered Management Institute
Andrew Knott CMgr FCMI
Training Director EMEA, Nalco
Richard Bennett
Assistant Chief Constable, College of Policing
Professor Jonathan Perks MBE CCMI
CEO’s Trusted Leadership Advisor, JPA Ltd
Mario King
Director, King & D’eath Ltd
Jeremy Webster
Director, Silver Pebble Ltd
Lorna Leonard CMgr
Financial Controller, Ecotech London Ltd
Professor Vlatka Hlupic
Professor of Business and Management, University of Westminster
Professor Roger Steare
Visiting Professor in the Practice of Organizational Ethics, Cass Business School
Professor Julian Birkinshaw
Chaired Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, London Business School
Professor Barry Curnow
Head of Human Resources and Organisational Behaviour Dept, University of Greenwich Business School
Dr Steve Ellis
Senior Lecturer, Regent’s University London
Dr Steve Priddy
Head of Research, London School of Business & Finance
Chris Roebuck
Visiting Professor of Transformational Leadership, Cass Business School
Martin Dean
Associate Lecturer, Anglia Ruskin University
Professor Joseph Lampel
Professor of Strategy and Innovation, Cass Business School
Professor Emeritus Arthur Francis
Dean, College of Fellows, British Academy of Management
Professor Graham Buchanan
Fellow, Centre for Progressive Leadership
Professor Richard Hardin
Head of Department for Leadership and Professional Development, University of Westminster
Dylan Valentine
Bid & Delivery Excellence Apprentice, Fujitsu
Sapphire Gray FCMI MIC
Director, SG Business Consultancy
Dr Fern-Chantele Carter
Activity Manager, Frances King
Steve McGrady
Managing Consultant, Cambridge Management Sciences Ltd.
Dr Kevin Roe
Operations and Maintenance Manager, Serco Group plc
Caroline Kaiser FCMI
Regional Manager, Sanctuary Group
Dr Charles Phillips FCMI
International Business Consultant, Sinowest International business Consultancy
Mervyn Wint
ABE Country Manager, Association of Business Executives
Jeff Gardner FCMI
Group Delivery Manager, Vodafone Group Services Ltd
James Pickering
Analyst, Capita Consulting; Winner of the APPGM Commission’s Essay Competition
Santaram Santok LLB(Hons) MSc PgDip CMgr FCMI
Operations Manager, Cofely-GDF Suez
Ron Davidson FCMI
Consultant (International Laundry and Dry-cleaning), Cry Consultants Ltd
Paul Waller
Organisational Development Manager, Kinnerton (Confectionery) Company Ltd.
Alan Budinger
Project Manager, Bank of America Merrill Lynch
Emir Osman FCMI
Finance Manager, Task Associates (Finance) Ltd
Gary Jevon CMgr
Key Relationship Manager, InHealth
Paul Diamond
Career Development Consultant, KEEP Consulting Ltd
Allan Thow FCIS FCMI
Almoner, WCCSA
John Muldoon FCMI
Compliance Consultant, Self-employed
Philip Gadie
Principal Consultant, Skarbek Associates Ltd
Christine Cavanagh
Programme Manager, NHS Screening Programmes
Paul Taylor CMgr MCMI
Co-Chair London & South-East Region, CMI
Mark Neild MBA CMgr FCMI
Senior Innovation Consultant, The Lamberhurst Corporation
Frances Phillips MCMI
Customer Contact Operations Manager
Luke Hamilton
Student, University of Lincoln; Runner-up of the APPGM Commission’s Essay Competition

SIR – Growing biofuel crops is counter-productive and may prove fatal to a sustainable environment. The vast monoculture of oilseed rape here in south-west Wiltshire requires constant attention: applying slug bait when the plants are emerging, spraying for mildew, aphids and flea beetles and, of course, spraying with fertiliser.

It has been years since the lime and sycamore trees in the area dripped with honeydew and harboured a diversity of insects feeding on the aphids that produce it. There used to be clouds of house martins and swallows feasting among these trees by day, and bats hunting in them come sundown. Now their leaves remain dry, matt and green from spring until autumn, and there is nothing for the insects, birds and bats to feed on.

Anne Booth
Shaftesbury, Dorset

SIR – We can sympathise with Lord Carey’s shift in position on Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill. Christian bioethics has always deplored the extraordinary preservation of human life.

However, if the ending of life is deliberate, then the principle of double effect cannot be invoked.

Lord Carey has been persuaded that intolerable suffering is common. Our view is that with adequate willingness to alleviate suffering it is far less of a problem. Lord Falconer’s ill-constructed Bill is wide open to abuse, leaving us at the mercy of Machiavellian politicians and cost-effectiveness analysts.

Dr Robert Hardie
Dr Ian Jessiman
Dr Adrian Treloar
Catholic Medical Association (UK)
London SW1

SIR – Surely the archbishop knows that Christ himself died in agony and that God, for reasons beyond our understanding, allowed this to happen.

Christians believe that Christ’s suffering was redemptive: that it was a necessary event in mankind’s salvation. They believe that human suffering is not meaningless, but connected with the suffering of Christ and, if accepted willingly, can become a part of the same redemption offered by Him.

That is what Lord Carey ought to be saying, instead of basing his judgment on individual cases, however terrible.

John Hoar
South Molton, Devon

SIR – To resolve the issue of assisted dying, legislation must somehow incorporate the paradox of polar opposites.

Some people suffer terribly in their last days. Why should they not be able to say: “I have had enough. Please inject me”?

On the other hand, I am strongly influenced by a dear friend of mine dying of motor neurone disease. Although she wanted to stay alive until the end, she agreed that it should remain illegal or she would have felt compelled to agree to it, to end the pain and suffering she saw in the eyes of her husband and her children.

Penny Mitchell
Worthing, West Sussex

SIR – If we see any other form of life – a beloved pet, say – experiencing extreme pain or a prolonged death, it is our duty to put these beings out of their misery.

Yet if a human being is suffering, it is our duty to keep those poor people alive. This strikes me as a very strange way to think.

Daphne MacOwan
Ramsey, Isle of Man

SIR – I thank God for Lord Carey’s support of assisted dying.

Those of us in our seventies would look forward so much more to old age knowing that we would not be kept alive at any cost.

Wendy Mann
London E6

Irish Times:

Sir, – Hamas began its present rocket offensive against Israel on June 12th, the first day of the search for three murdered Israeli teenagers. This massive and indiscriminate bombardment had reached the level of approximately 1,200 rockets by last Sunday.

Israel did not ask for this war. However, no country could allow its citizens to be attacked in this way without responding. Hamas is guilty of a double war crime. First, by deliberately attacking Israel’s civilians, it violates the principle of distinction embodied in the 1979 Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions. Article 48 requires that parties to a conflict “shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants . . . and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives.” Article 51 requires that “the civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack”. Second, Hamas deliberately puts the Palestinian civilian population in danger by launching attacks from within densely populated areas, deploying weapons storage sites and command centres in residential homes and commandeering hospitals, private homes, schools and mosques for terrorist use.

It is clear that this violates Article 58: “The parties shall, to the maximum extent feasible endeavour to remove the civilian population … under their control from the vicinity of military objectives, and avoid locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas.”

Even worse, Hamas directly and cynically promotes the use of its civilians as human shields, ordering them to ignore the warnings given by the Israel Defence Forces to leave buildings targeted for air strikes, and even calling on them to gather on the rooftops of such buildings.

Such a tactic contravenes Article 51(7): “The parties to the conflict shall not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations.”

The difference between Israel and Hamas boils down to this: we are using bomb shelters and the Iron Dome system to protect the residents of Israel against Hamas missiles, while they use the residents of Gaza to protect arsenals of missiles. We invest huge sums of money in protecting our civilians and in maximising our accuracy in fighting Hamas, while they spend huge sums building an infrastructure of terror and trying to kill as many civilians as possible on both sides.

Israel is a democracy that is fighting unbridled terrorism in a legitimate, responsible and level-headed manner. No country in the world would do any less than we have been doing to protect our citizens. – Yours, etc,

BOAZ MODAI,

Ambassador of Israel,

Pembroke Road,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – Israel has an army, navy and air force, highly trained and equipped to the highest standards and with the backing of one of the world’s superpowers. Gaza has no protection against this onslaught.

Now the Israeli army is poised for a ground offensive. No tanks will resist their tanks, no aircraft will attack their aircraft and no ships will interfere with their shelling of Gaza from the sea.

What the world is witnessing is a war crime – and history will judge it to be that.

And no “Iron Dome” system will save the reputations of those inside and outside Israel who stand by and do nothing while it happens. – Yours, etc,

NOEL CARROLL,

Raheenavine,

Rathdrum,

Co Wicklow.

Sir, – It is all very well for us to wring our hands in condemnation of the Israeli bombing and killing of innocent children in Gaza. All violence is wrong. Israel will only behave if its economy suffers. Why can we not begin by boycotting its goods? – Yours, etc,

JERRY KELLEHER,

Rathmines,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – Further to “Thornton say no to GM food” (Business, July 14th), I would like to thank chef Kevin Thornton for highlighting what would be involved if and when such a EU-US trade agreement is signed. It is about time someone did so!

In Germany people have been demonstrating, protesting and debating the issue for months, whereas here the general public has never been made aware of the implications should this deal go ahead. So far Enda Kenny has said it would bring jobs to Ireland, which is nothing but wishful thinking. There was no mention of the negative aspects, such as allowing genetically modified food and hormone-treated beef into Ireland. I am hoping that now our farmers will also take a stand. – Yours, etc,

C SUDWAY,

Knocklyon Drive,

Templeogue,

Dublin 16.

Sir, – Kevin Thornton has raised concerns about the ongoing negotiations on an EU-US trade deal which were launched in Dublin last year. It is estimated that an ambitious deal could benefit the European economy by €119 billion a year – equivalent to €545 for an average EU household – and the US by €95 billion a year.

The European Commission, which conducts the negotiations for the 28 European member states, has been crystal clear; it will not negotiate existing levels of protection for the sake of an agreement.

This is not a race to the bottom. Making our regulations more compatible does not mean going for the lowest common denominator, but rather seeing where we diverge unnecessarily.

There will be no compromise whatsoever on safety, consumer protection or the environment. But there will be a willingness to look pragmatically on whether we can do things better and in a more coordinated fashion.

Obviously, each side will keep the right to regulate environmental, safety and health issues at the level each side considers appropriate. – Yours, etc,

BARBARA NOLAN,

Head of the European

Commission Representation

in Dublin,

18 Dawson Street,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Further to Emmet Malone’s “O’Neill draw inspiration from great competition” (July 14th), and in relation to the coaching structure the Germans have, it is definitely something that the Republic of Ireland needs to copy and implement. However, there are certain issues that will impact on us following the German model, albeit on a much smaller scale.

This country has a massive following for four sports – both codes of the GAA, rugby and soccer – and soccer is competing with two much better organised associations in the GAA and the IRFU. It could even be argued that the brilliantly run amateur boxing scene is making inroads on soccer in the traditional working-class areas of Dublin and Cork.

The domestic league is in constant crisis. Much of this problem can be laid at the feet of the FAI, but the so-called Irish soccer public needs to take a lot of the blame.

The Setanta Cup was the forerunner for a possible all-Irish league. Attendances were poor at games and that probably has ended any hope of an all-Ireland league.

Many of the Irish soccer fans only give a damn about what is happening at Anfield, Old Trafford or Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium. They don’t care about what is happening at Turner’s Cross or at Tallaght Stadium, with the result that clubs have no money to invest in proper youth coaching.

Ideally, the FAI would implement a national schoolboy league, where the best young lads in Cork play for Cork City and each club would have a Uefa Pro Licence Coach working with the kids in each age group. But given the lack of money in the game in this country, this is about as realistic as Burnley being crowned Premier League champions next May.

The local TD is concerned about re-election and being close to the GAA folk. There is little to gain for TDs from being a friend to the local soccer club.

We can talk all we like about the FAI, but if the football public lacks the desire to change things, then nothing will be done and we will be hanging around hoping that we produce that one world-class (maybe we’ll get lucky and produce two at the one time) player to get us to tournaments. – Yours, etc,

KEITH FINGLAS,

Crumlin,

Dublin 12.

Sir, – So Irish Water (“Data commissioner to review details sought by Irish Water”, July 14th) wants our PPS number and bank account details and a four-page application form? What an intrusion!

No other utility supplier seeks these details. Whatever about giving my PPS number, I certainly will not be disclosing my bank account numbers. I pay all my existing utility bills online when due and a similar arrangement should be sufficient for Irish Water. It is an organisation that clearly does not live in the real world. It is a pity it will have a monopoly! – Yours, etc,

DESMOND E CAMPBELL,

Greenfield Road,

Mount Merrion, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Peter Dunne (July 12th) draws a comparison between the denial of service of African Americans in the southern states of the US in the 1960s and the Ashers bakery controversy. This analogy is incorrect. The customer was not denied service, nor was he denied it on the basis of his sexual orientation. There is no evidence that Ashers bakery was even aware of the customer’s sexual orientation. The bakery merely refused to write a political slogan that went against its beliefs and supports something which is contrary to the law of the land. I would suggest a more accurate analogy would be the refusal of a bakery in a loyalist area to provide a cake with the slogan “Tiocfaidh ár lá” for a nationalist customer. – Yours, etc,

MARIA

Mhic MHEANMAIN,

Glen Abhainn Park,

Enfield,

Co Meath.

Sir, – Contrary to Howard Hutchins’s assertion (July 12th), I would say that the cornerstone of our western society – and its ideals of democracy, freedom and equality – is the Enlightenment (beginning in late 17th-century Europe) rather than “Judeo-Christian culture”. – Yours, etc,

ADAM MURPHY,

Chapel Road,

Monivea,

Athenry,

Co Galway.

Sir, – For many observers, it is very easy to dismiss the gay cake controversy as a storm in a tea-cup, or – perhaps more appropriately – a crisis on a cupcake. However, discrimination is so insidious precisely because it often lurks in the most quotidian exchanges.

We have seen some fortifying stories reported in your newspaper in recent weeks, from Enda Kenny’s commitment to naming a referendum date on gay marriage, and the move to protect gay teachers.

But there is animus to be conquered. While there are several summer stories to rejoice in, this cake business is a reminder that, when it comes to discrimination against gay people, a chill wind often blows on this island. – Yours, etc,

Dr SEAN

ALEXANDER SMITH,

Chao do Loureiro,

Lisbon.

Sir, – Breda O’Brien describes Ernie and Bert as characters from The Muppet Show (“Bert and Ernie’s bromance offers a lesson in tolerance”, Opinion & Analysis, July 12th).

Ernie and Bert were created by Frank Oz and Jim Henson for Sesame Street not The Muppet Show. Since Henson also created The Muppet Show it’s easy to see how Breda got her strings crossed.

Like God, Henson loved all his children equally so probably would not be too upset.

There never was a specific Christian bakery on Sesame Street, which is just as well. One can just imagine Ernie and Bert discussing the missing ingredient in the so-called Christian cake. “Look Ernie, they forget to put in an ounce of love.” – Yours, etc,

SÉAMUS DOOLEY,

St Thomas Road,

The Tenters,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – Yes, we should preserve the Poolbeg towers. But if we do so, we should also preserve the other historic locations of the area and ask why they have been allowed to become ruins.

What has become of the brooding Titanic-like structure of the iconic, original Pigeon House power station with its seven chimneys? Why have the walls of the 19th-century Pigeon House Fort, whose battlements are clearly in place (and were walkable until about five years ago), been allowed to become overgrown, unidentifiable and impassable? The token cannons placed at the gates are a pathetic, forlorn gesture.

Preserve this unique urban space, but not just the towers. – Yours, etc,

Prof CONAL HOOPER,

Foster Avenue,

Mount Merrion, Co Dublin.

Sir, – How about a crematorium? It would remind Dubliners of their mortality. – Yours, etc,

KEITH NOLAN,

Caldra House,

Carrick-on-Shannon,

Co Leitrim.

Sir, – Iain MacLaren (July 14th) writes that English fees are among the most unaffordable in the world; actually, they are among the most affordable.

The loan system used by English universities means that a student only begins paying back his loan when his salary can accommodate it. If a student never earns above £21,000 a year, he doesn’t have to repay a penny. The whole system is set up to be affordable.

But according to Mr MacLaren, it is better to fund universities by dint of a “proper” progressive income tax. This tells us, first, that Mr MacLaren doesn’t think a top rate of 45 per cent is high enough (all fleeing Scottish entrepreneurs welcome in Dublin/London). It also tells us that he thinks it is fairer for working-class kids to defray the education of pampered middle-class kids.

The top 30 universities in the world (as chosen by the Times of London) all have some form of university fees – shouldn’t that tell Mr MacLaren something? – Yours, etc,

THEO VON

PRONDZYNSKI,

Donnybrook Castle,

Donnybrook,

Sir, – Joe Walsh (July 14th) is mistaken if he thinks that Sinn Féin in government in Northern Ireland is a product of “true democracy”, when in fact the contrived nature of the power-sharing Executive at Stormont is anything but. In truly democratic elections, there tend to be winners and losers, but not so in Northern Ireland.

Power-sharing remains, of course, the best solution yet attempted to the seemingly intractable social and political divisions in the North, but this is precisely because Northern Ireland is not a properly functioning “true democracy”. – Yours, etc,

ALAN EUSTACE,

Annadale Drive,

Marino,

Dublin 9.

Sir, – As an Irish doctor, I can fully understand Garth’s position. Ireland is a nice place to visit but a very hard place in which to negotiate working conditions. – Yours, etc,

Dr CONOR MAGUIRE,

Glencairn Medical Centre,

Leopardstown Valley,

Dublin 18.

Sir, – In the interests of proper planning and sustainable development, I propose the Planning and Development (Garth Brooks) (Amendment) Bill, 2014. This of course could be followed by the Planning and Development (Country and Western Music) Regulations. – Yours, etc,

CONOR NORTON,

Croydon Green,

Marino,

Dublin 3.

Sir, – Today I attempted to get a dress posted to me from Co Cork – a dress which is ready, a dress which I have paid for in full, a dress whose postage I have also paid for. Not possible. They only post on Fridays. I had the temerity to ask why. Because they have a business to run.

Not for long, I suggest. – Yours, etc,

IRENE O’DEA,

Shancorn,

Belturbet,

Co Cavan.

Sir, – I see there’s been a bit of a reshuffle in Britain. When will they cease to slavishly mimic the antics of their near neighbour? – Yours, etc,

GABRIEL ROSENSTOCK,

Gleann na gCaorach,

Co Átha Cliath.

Sir, – I sympathise with Prof Bert G Hornback (July 14th). To avoid all the “chain-store commerce” and “generic clerks”, perhaps he should ask to be dropped in Co Laois? There he will find the plain people of Ireland, forgotten by the Government, completely free of the trappings of touristry, Oirishness and the “fabulousness” that permeates the east coast and seeps into much of Kildare and Wicklow. He could join Kanye West and Kim Kardashian on one of their trips to Ballyfin and perhaps take in a film at Portlaoise cinema? He’d be more than welcome! – Yours, etc,

AIDAN McCANE,

Kilminchy Close,

Portlaoise,

Co Laois.

Irish Independent:

My hero, Frank McCourt, died five years ago this week, an event that prompted sorrow mixed with the guilty suspicion that I wasn’t really entitled to any. We were strangers, after all, but McCourt was important to me in the unknowing way heroes often are.

On a spring day in 2007, I took the train from Poughkeepsie to New York City to see McCourt and Calvin Trillin at the 92nd Street Y. The event was part of a reading and performance series, but was more like eavesdropping on the men as they chatted in the living room.

The men sat in club chairs flanking a low table and talked about favourite books, about pretentious restaurants and about the ham-fisted response to the massive snowstorms that crippled New York City in the 1970s. “There are still huge piles of snow out in Queens left over from the Lindsey administration,” said McCourt.

From my seat in the darkened auditorium I laughed along with the men, enjoying their sharp wit and the easy warmth of their exchange. Following a brief Q&A, the men took seats at folding tables. I stood in McCourt’s line and watched him smile and chat. I extended my hand as I approached the table.

“Hello, Mr McCourt, I left your books at home this morning, it seemed a little tacky to haul them all down here for your autograph.” McCourt smiled and waved his hand: “Och, that’s what these things are for.”

“Well, I enjoyed hearing you and Mr Trillin speak,” I said, “but I really came here today to tell you that something you said in a radio interview years ago really resonated with me and it inspired me to write my own story about my Irish Catholic childhood in Broad Channel, and about my search for the three-year-old who went missing from our family.”

McCourt folded his hands and tilted his head to one side, waiting.

“The interviewer asked you why, at age 66 and after 30 years in the classroom, you’d decided to write ‘Angela’s Ashes’. You said, ‘Because if I hadn’t, I’d have gone howling to my grave’.”

McCourt’s facial expression said he didn’t recall the words exactly, but he certainly agreed with the sentiment. “That’s pretty good,” he said with a chuckle.

“When I finish my manuscript I’d like to send it to you with a note reminding you about this conversation. Perhaps you’d let me take you to lunch?”

He squinted at my card before slipping it into his shirt pocket. “Okay,” he said clutching my hand a second time. “Maybe we can do some howling!”

I learned of his illness when his brother Malachy told the press: “Frank is not expected to live.” The slim possibility of that lunch still remained: a spring meeting at an outdoor cafe or perhaps an hour or two in the autumn, sharing a pot of tea.

The night McCourt lay dying, a torrential summer storm blew through the Hudson Valley. I imagined him in his bed an hour to the south, tended by family while thunder cracked and the lights flickered. I feel certain he did not howl.

EDWARD MCCANN

TILLSON LAKE ROAD, WALLKILL, NYC

 

WHAT ABOUT 450,000 JOBLESS?

I’m not sure if it was a graduated response or a misjudged offering on behalf of the inevitable culchie land invasion of Dublin, but the man himself offered to swim, fly or beg to make five in a row happen, and every shop or store owner on both sides of the Liffey, with container-loads of authentic looking cowboy hats and boots from China, will be praying like they never prayed before to every version of god out there, so that it does happen.

Whoever could have foreseen the countrywide tremor, or the turmoil, a cowboy hat-wearing country singer named Garth Brooks would cause?

Even the unfortunate story of over a dozen beached whales up here in Donegal had to suffer the indignity of having to take a back seat to the unfolding saga of will he/won’t he.

To say that it went from a fiasco to a farce on every radio and TV station in the country and abroad would be an understatement for want of a more appropriate description.

Even the busy Mexican ambassador had offered his services as a peace negotiator amid calls for US President Barack Obama to forget the conflicts in the Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Iranian nuclear programme that’s causing him headaches, and get directly involved because if our problem implodes, it will turn an ace card for Enda into a joker amid an upturn in consumer spending.

We have 450,000 of the population jobless, unemployed, on the breadline, call it whatever you like and they cannot grab the attention of the Taoiseach, media and world leaders like the 400,000 who bought tickets in their quest to do the hokey pokey with the Stetson-wearing messiah of country and western music, Garth Brooks?

God save us from all harm, but isn’t there something peculiarly weird about this whole hip-whacking, butt-shaking, line-dancing scenario?

J WOODS

GORT AN CHOIRCE, DUN NA NGALL

 

TICKETHOLDERS SHOULD SUE

The blame for the Garth Brooks concert debacle lies squarely with the promoters and Brooks himself. They have a legal obligation to the ticketholders to provide the three authorised concerts.

If they refuse I suggest that a group of ticketholders should get together and take a class action against them.

I must compliment the city manager, who having made the difficult decision had the courage to stick by it despite the silly posturing of politicians in Government Buildings and the Mansion House.

JOHN P MASTERSON

CARRICKANE, CAVAN

GARTH CRISIS HAS A SOLUTION

Only an eejit would build a house without planning permission as you can be made to tear it down. This was no different. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail so people have a lot to answer for.

Having said that it is shameful that a resolution could not have been found with say the surplus of concerts over the agreed amount held in Croker this year triggering an equivalent reduction in the number to be held next year. Everybody has lost out now so there are lessons to be learned… expensive ones.

KILLIAN BRENNAN

COROFIN HOUSE, MALAHIDE ROAD, DUBLIN 17

TECHNOLOGY REPLACING WORKERS

I refer to an Irish Independent editorial “Onus on State to ensure integrity of job scheme” and article by Tom Molloy “The scheme is working and getting vital experience for jobseekers” published on July 15.

An extraordinary phenomenon of an age personified by the genius of technology which has changed practically all aspects of life in recent decades is persistence with employment discussion without any reference whatsoever to the impact of that technology on work and jobs.

Dependence on human labour is being eliminated on a truly massive scale; automation is rampant and improving and yet an absurd government policy pursues job creation as if we were still in previous centuries.

Every conceivable guise is used to make job figures look good.

We collude in dubious taxavoidance which eventually will brand us pariahs on the international scene and refuse absolutely to heed numerous wake-up calls of what is really happening on the jobs/work front. No explanation or even discussion has yet emerged on the significance of one investment of €3.6bn without a promise of a single job.

Automation allows the world to produce everything in abundance without dependence on human labour; this is a reality we ignore at our peril.

It really is tragic to see respected journalism assist such monumental self-deception.

PADRAIC NEARY

TUBBERCURRY, CO SLIGO

Irish Independent

Sweepings

July 15, 2014

15July2014 Sweeping away

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. A quiet day I sweep the drive

ScrabbleMarywins, but gets under 400. perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.

Obituary:

Nadine Gordimer – obituary

Nadine Gordimer was a masterly liberal South African novelist who chronicled her country’s journey from apartheid to troubled democracy

Nadine Gordimer in 2008

Nadine Gordimer in 2008 Photo: AP

7:00PM BST 14 Jul 2014

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Nadine Gordimer,who has died aged 90, won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991 and was widely recognised as one of the finest writers in the English language, though her work remained constantly rooted in the political problems of her native South Africa.

She was born on November 20 1923 in Springs, outside Johannesburg, the daughter of Isidore Gordimer, a Latvian Jewish watchmaker, and his English wife, Nan. Educated at the all-white Convent of our Lady of Mercy until the age of 10, she was then home-schooled after being diagnosed with a heart condition. By that time she had already begun writing poetry, and by 15 had published the first of some 100 short stories; more than 20 books would follow.

Nadine Gordimer at home in Johannesburg in 2007 (AP)

Though she had little formal education and her parents remained frustratingly apolitical, Nadine herself began to read assiduously and, at the age of 21, attended the University of Witwatersrand. Despite her restless mind, she remained confined within her white, middle-class, liberal environment. It was this restricted social sphere that would frame both the strengths and the weaknesses of her literary work, for her characters would consistently highlight the limitations and corruptions of white South Africa while remaining firmly within its boundaries.

A brief early marriage to an orthodontist, Gerald Gavronsky, ended in 1952, leaving her a single mother. She reacted by joining the bohemian set in Johannesburg, the city where she would live for the rest of her life. Her first collection of short stories, The Soft Voice of the Serpent, was published in America in 1951 and her first novel, The Lying Days, was published in 1953.

An immediate success, it told the story of Helen Shaw, a white woman who deplores racial bigotry but remains passively inside her car during a race riot in Johannesburg. This kind of moral dilemma was to remain typical of Gordimer’s future work — as was the tendency for moral enlightenment, particularly for female characters, to be focused around the failure of a romantic relationship.

In 1954 she married her second husband, Reinhold Cassirer, an art dealer and refugee from Nazi Germany who actively supported her interest in black politics. The couple sheltered a leading dissident, Albert Luthuli, under their roof while he was being tried for anti-state activities. Nadine Gordimer, meanwhile, joined the ANC and became a sometime messenger and chauffeur for the organisation.

In 1958 she published A World of Strangers, whose central character Toby Hood was largely based on the real life English publisher, Anthony Sampson, who edited the radical Drum magazine from 1951 to 1955. It was through her friendship with Sampson that Gordimer became acquainted with many leading black radicals, including Can Themba, Bloke Modisane and Nelson Mandela.

Her friendship with Mandela was to become of central importance in her life. Decades later, after his release, divorce from Winnie Mandela, and the end of his political career, he would ask Nadine Gordimer to dinner. In the Fifties, however, the primary effect of her acquaintance with ANC dissidents was to radicalise both her writing and her thought. But her thinking was ahead of her writing and though A World of Strangers describes enormous social problems, its resolution appears naive and idealistic.

The gravity of actual events, however, soon began to overtake her fictional depictions. By 1960, the year of the Sharpeville massacre and the declaration of a State of Emergency, she had made numerous friends in the ANC. But this world was collapsing. “It was an incredible time,” she said, “when almost everyone I knew was in jail or fleeing.”

She was left in a sudden state of solitude. Occasion for Loving (1963) brought her first three novels to their logical conclusion with its realisation of social failure. In it, Jessie Stilwell is essentially the same central character as Helen Shaw, though now older and married with children. Her world is questioned when a mixed-race love affair takes place in her house and Jessie merely wishes to evade the issue and to be left alone in idealistic liberal isolation.

Nadine Gordimer, by contrast, chose to speak out frequently, notably making speeches against censorship. In 1966 she wrote two articles on the arrest and trial of Bram Fischer, a leading white liberal, in which her admiration for his integrity was manifest. This was to resurface 13 years later, when she would base a character in Burger’s Daughter, one of her greatest books, on him.

At the time, however, her interest in his trial led to The Late Bourgeois World (1966), which was more explicitly linked to actual historical events than any of her previous novels. She wrote that “it was an attempt to look into the specific character of the social climate that produced the wave of young white saboteurs in 1963-64”. In it, the central character is prepared to risk personal danger when she steps out of her white cocoon and comes to the assistance of a black friend. Deemed dangerous by the authorities, the novel was banned.

Her fifth novel, A Guest of Honour (1971), won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and, for once, was not set in South Africa but in an independent black African state, which provided the backdrop for the clash between blacks and blacks. For Nadine Gordimer always saw herself, and particularly with regard to A Guest of Honour, as an African novelist.

Nadine Gordimer in 1986 visiting Alexandra black township near Johannesberg (CORBIS)

In 1974 she won the Booker Prize with what is widely regarded as one of her best works, The Conservationist. Unusually, its central character is male and an arch-conservative, whose personal struggle is for the possession of land against its black inheritors – a battle he is destined to lose. Writing in the New Statesman, Paul Theroux noted that the book “makes practically every other novel I’ve reviewed in the past few years look like indulgent trifling”.

On June 16 1976, 15,000 schoolchildren joined a protest which became known as the Soweto Revolt. Two children were to die, and Burger’s Daughter (1979) was, in large part, Nadine Gordimer’s response to this tragedy: Rosa Burger is the daughter of an Afrikaner leader who is bequeathed the burden of failed white radicalism when her father dies in custody. Though she rejects her inheritance and settles for a job as a physiotherapist, treating the victims of the Soweto riots, she, too, is arrested, merely on the grounds of having been connected to other activists. “We whites… are solely responsible, whether we support white supremacy or, opposing, have failed to unseat it,” Nadine Gordimer wrote, and Burger’s Daughter, too, was immediately banned in her home country.

Despite this oppression she was never tempted to go into exile, believing that it was her literary duty to fight apartheid from within. She did confront the topic of exile, however, in July’s People (1981) which centred on a white family fleeing civil war. It was the first of her works explicitly set in a South African future and, reflecting her view of the state of the nation at the time, was her most pessimistic work.

Nadine Gordimer in 1980

Her novel of 1987, A Sport of Nature, was not her most successful, though its conclusion celebrates South Africa’s gradual liberation from apartheid, so prefiguring the release, in 1990, of her old friend Nelson Mandela. She marked this event with My Son’s Story in which she departed from her normal prose style by writing the central narrative from the point of view of a male black activist, Sonny, who begins an affair with a white human rights lawyer. The themes of love, politics, and personal and political betrayals are once again highlighted and the book was a worldwide success.

By the time of None to Accompany Me (1994), apartheid had crumbled. But Gordimer rejected the notion that South Africa had become a less interesting place. Vera Stark, the central character, is a lawyer who pursues human rights work not out of the then much-discussed “white guilt”, but out of a need to engage with the place to which, by birth, she understood she had no choice but to belong. The book contrasted the difference between justice and empowerment, making the point that once former victims had gained positions of power, they often did not know how to deal with their newly-gained strength.

With these concerns already bubbling away in 1994, it was no surprise that Nadine Gordimer would eventually turn her sights on corruption and misrule under the ANC – the subject of her final novel No Time Like the Present (2012). “We were naive,” she reflected in an interview with The Telegraph after the book’s publication, “because we focused on removing the apartheid government and never thought deeply enough about what would follow.”

Her literary trajectory from None to Accompany Me to No Time Like the Present spanned three novels – The House Gun (1998); The Pickup (2001); and Get a Life (2005). In that time she criticised her fellow writers for novels that “do not deal with today”. But she did not make that mistake. The House Gun followed a crime of passion, and was fired by interactions between races which constantly shifted with the political and economic upheavals of the time. The Pickup put usual arguments about immigration into reverse, telling the story of a white South African woman, Julie Summers, who follows an illegal Arab immigrant back to his homeland, where she becomes the outsider.

Get a Life, about a man’s battle against cancer which forces him into a period of quarantine (during which he is separated from his wife and three year-old child) was an excursion from her usual literary territory – more personal and less political, and less well-received as a result. But Nadine Gordimer was soon forced to confront the scourges of contemporary South Africa again, and in the most dramatic style.

Nadine Gordimer presenting Nelson Mandela with the Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award in 2006 (EPA)

In 2006, thieves broke into her home. During the robbery she and her housekeeper were dragged upstairs; her housekeeper was punched and kicked when she started screaming, prompting Gordimer, who even in her youth stood only 5ft 1in tall, to upbraid the attackers. After both women had been locked in a cupboard, the robbers left. Asked about her thoughts at the time, Nadine Gordimer recalled musing simply: “Oh well, it’s my turn to experience what so many others have.”

In 1991 she had become the first South African – and the third African ever – to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, with The Conservationist and Burger’s Daughter singled out as masterpieces. Though she always claimed, unlike her old friends Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, not to have the courage of a true revolutionary, or to have shrugged off the selfishness of the writer, still she never ceased to express in print the problems of her country as she saw them – and to do so as truthfully as she could.

Nadine Gordimer in London in 2012

“You accept or reject the influences around you, you are formed by your social enclosure and you are always growing,” she said more than a decade after the fall of apartheid. “To be a writer is to enter into public life. I look upon our process as writers as discovery of life.

“I have failed at many things,” she added, “ but I have never been afraid.”

Reinhold Cassirer died in 2001. Nadine Gordimer is survived by a daughter of her first marriage and a son from her second.

Nadine Gordimer, born November 20 1923, died July 13 2014

Guardian:

We all realise that Aldi is the EasyJet of the supermarket world (Report, 1 July), but most shoppers do not realise how basic its services are and how this impacts on the disabled. Aldi sells food cheaply but does not offer any of the services normally found in supermarkets such as papers, stamps etc, making them more like the old wholesale warehouses that used to sell to the public.

Being disabled, I have have been unable to find wheelchairs or seating at Aldi. In my experience, checkout assistants do not normally help people to pack at the checkouts. They seem to be paid on how fast they scan the goods and cannot scan and pack as they process the items. Some assistants try to help; others do not. It’s obvious why people shop at Aldi, but I’m not sure it should be compared to other fully featured supermarkets. It changes its products frequently and something you like may not be there next week – and it has a very limited range of vegetarian food.
Phillip Brown
Westbury, Wiltshire

National Grid‘s high case scenario says the price of electricity could double over the next 20 years (Report, 10 July), which it could. But then again, it could halve. Predicting the future is more likely to be wrong than right. What we do know from evidence is that where there is a large percentages of electricity supplied from variable power sources (ie primarily wind and solar), peak electricity prices – the most expensive ones during the day and where companies make their profits – are falling rapidly, thereby bringing down the wholesale cost of electricity.

We also know from evidence that bills are as low as they can be in an energy system where real efforts are made to reduce total energy demand and improve energy efficiency. Neither of these strategies are being followed with any conviction in Britain.

On the other hand, again from evidence, the California electricity crisis of 2001 occurred because the economic justification for all the changes undertaken relied on wholesale prices coming down, and many analyses showed that they would. In the event, wholesale prices went up and led to a $40-45bn bill for customers. Now with Britain’s electricity market reform, the costs to consumers of its strategy  can only be justified if wholesale prices go up – and sure enough we are seeing reports showing that this will happen. Evidence, plus many other reports, dispute this. Evidence is stronger and more robust than predictions. Thus, were policy in Britain to change, and if customer concerns and their bills started to become the primary goal of energy policy in this country, then I would predict falling wholesale prices and an uncomfortable time for the incumbents – including National Grid.
Catherine Mitchell
Falmouth, Cornwall

• Your otherwise excellent article (Firm hopes to keep lights on by turning them off, 8 July) says renewables rely on “significant public subsidies”. But it is actually the electricity from fossil fuels that is subsidised, because users do not pay for the environmental damage caused by the associated carbon dioxide emissions. Economists can argue over the true cost of burning fossil fuels when the environmental damage is factored in, but current users of electricity certainly aren’t paying it. The money paid to wind farms and other renewable sources of generation is not so much a subsidy as a market fudge because politicians don’t see paying for environmental damage as a vote winner – particularly when no country wants to be the first to penalise its industry with higher costs. However,  as the Stern report showed, it is cheaper to curb emissions than to pay for the problems caused by climate change. We need to ensure that the loose accusation that renewables are subsidised is firmly rebutted.
Peter Newbery
Bristol

• National Grid is working with some big users to temporarily cut back on electricity when supply is having difficulty keeping up with demand. On a much larger scale, utilities could offer any user a tariff based on the National Grid’s spot market price in real time (with a percentage added to cover distribution costs). This tariff would have considerable price volatility. Many different smart products would be developed to enable users to automatically reduce their bills by time-shifting demand from high prices to lower prices. Price predictions could be broadcast that, among other factors, took account of the weather on intermittent renewable output. This would enable many smart products to be much more efficient.
Stewart Reddaway
Ashwell, Hertfordshire

• The most recent figures on complaints regarding energy bills from the Energy Ombudsman is yet another sign that Britain’s energy billing system is in urgent need of improvement through new technology. Currently our energy bills are often estimated. This would be an unthinkable situation in any other industry, but one which we’ve resigned ourselves to in energy. The situation around switching providers is just as problematic. Currently, a third of those who switch suppliers or tariffs end up on a worse deal, often because they don’t have accurate information about their energy use. It is no surprise that these issues are at the heart of so many complaints.

Smart meters will offer a simple solution to this, and they are coming. By 2020 every British household will be offered a smart meter. This new technology will enable households to see their energy consumption in pounds and pence and will put an end to estimated bills. Moreover, it should reduce the number of inaccurate bills and so eliminate so many of the easily-solved causes of today’s complaints.
Sacha Deshmukh
Chief executive, Smart Energy GB

The proposal of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence to recommend access to bariatric surgery for patients with some forms of diabetes and a BMI of 30 (Report, 11 July) begs the question of clinical commissioning groups’ capacity to fund the consequent expenditure. Nice’s mandates and guidelines ignore the opportunity cost of their recommendations. What should CCGs cut to fund Nice’s proposed improvements? Where are their recommendations of which low-value interventions to eradicate?
Professor Alan Maynard
University of York

• As a 14-year-old in Rochdale, I missed the part where England won the World Cup in 1966, out on my paper round. Now 62, I am unlikely to see England win a trophy in my lifetime. Brazil have won five. Get over it, Brazilians, you have plenty of memories and I’m sure will rise again (Sport, 14 July).
Gary Grindrod
Poole, Dorset

• So the Guardian’s decided to have a spot-the-difference competition between pages 1 of the main and sports sections. Still it will, perhaps, be more satisfying than hunt the female sports- people. Did Heather Stanning not rate a photo (Rowing, page 9, Sport)? The usual dearth of women. Guardian, please, when will you take equality seriously.
Dr Pat Perks
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands

• Leo Benedictus (After the storm, 12 July) only half remembers the joke about the hapless Frank Haffey, the Scotland goalkeeper on the day they lost 9-3 to England in 1961. In answer to the question “What’s the time?”, the response of “Nearly ten past Haffey” is both much funnier and more logical than the quoted “Half past Haffey”.
Martin Pennington
Leicester

• Richard Walker shows complete mastery of World Cup cliche (Letters, 14 July). Yes, he’s certainly got that in his locker.
John Irving Clarke
Wakefield

• Jean McGowan asks who the female regulars on the Guardian Letters page are (Letters, 12 July). Me! I appear quite often, to my friends’ and family’s amusement. I say I’m your token Northern Ireland female.
Sharman Finlay
Ballyclare, Antrim

On Friday the House of Lords will be debating the assisted dying bill. I am really pleased that this bill is getting so much media coverage (Report, 14 July).

However, it is extremely frustrating that so many articles, programmes and debates in the media are confusing “assisted dying” with “assisted suicide”. They are very, very different.

We need the media to be clear about this. I have multiple sclerosis, am disabled and would not support a law allowing assisted suicide or euthanasia. “Assisted suicide” would allow medical assistance for people who are not imminently dying to end their lives.

I do not believe the safeguards could ever be in place to protect elderly, ill or disabled people from feeling pressurised to do this. However, the bill being debated on Friday is an assisted dying bill. The bill would allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults to request life-ending medication from a doctor if they choose to do so. This would give people who are going to die within six months choice, control and peace of mind over their final few weeks and days. I fully support this. The bill is about people who are imminently dying, not people who are living. People like myself who are living with a non-terminal illness or disability could not choose, or be put under pressure, to end our lives.

In Oregon they have had an assisted dying bill for 15 years. There has been no “slippery slope” to change the law to incorporate suicide or euthanasia. I was concerned that an assisted dying bill could cause a decline in palliative care. But evidence from countries that have legal assistance to die shows that palliative care remains on an equal level. In some instances, assisted dying legislation has been catalyst for improvement of palliative care services.
Shana Pezaro
Hove, East Sussex

• As a disabled person with two disabled siblings, I feel particularly vulnerable to campaigns for assisted suicide. While society rightly strives to prevent suicide among the able-bodied and regards such suicides as tragic, there is ambivalence toward the suicides or suicide requests of the disabled, often based on the perceptions of the non-disabled of how terrible it must be to be disabled.

The vast majority of disabled people do not seek assisted suicide, but their views have been ignored in favour of celebrity suicide-seekers who are viewed as courageous when in effect they are saying: “I would rather be dead than to have to live like you.”

One of the biggest problems faced by disabled people is obtaining help, compounded by fear of being a burden or a nuisance. To give the already vulnerable the “right to be die” – actually, the right to be killed – may prove the last straw for some depressed disabled people.
Ann Farmer
Woodford Green, Essex

• Anglican bishops Desmond Tutu and George Carey have had Damascene conversions on euthanasia and now back the right of the terminally ill to end their lives in dignity. They call for a mind-shift on the issue of “aid in dying”, arguing that the church’s insistence on the sanctity of life in all situations has the effect of sanctioning anguish and pain.

It is clear that the long-brewing division in the Church of England can no longer be hidden. Our current laws are incoherent and result in patients flying off to die premature deaths among strangers in Switzerland – surely the ultimate unintended consequence.
Rev Dr John Cameron
St Andrews

• At last – Dr Carey breaks ranks with the Church of England and shows compassion for the terminally ill. The assisted dying law would protect the vulnerable while showing compassion to the dying. Respect for my choices should not be determined by people whose faith is meaningless to me.
Mary Williams
Sheffield

• The debate about assisted dying seems to be dominated by the religious. Do journalists really think that end-of-life issues are chiefly the remit of the religious or is it that most of us are too lazy to think about things like this and don’t mind deferring to self-appointed guardians of our morals?
Bob Morgan
Thatcham, Berkshire

• Many people would enjoy their lives more if they didn’t have the concern that they will have a painful, undignified death. It has been reported that since the Harold Shipman case, not enough morphine is being given to relieve the pain of dying patients. Doctors fear being sued if morphine given to relieve terminally ill patients’ pain hastens their death. Where is the compassion? Terminally ill people should have the choice of an assisted death if it is their wish.
Name and address supplied

• Let us hope an assisted dying bill is passed this week. A form of assisted dying was in place for some time, the Liverpool “care pathway”, introduced as a compassionate act but tragically misconceived. Doctors administered diamorphine knowing that their patients would not survive its effects beyond two days.

My mother was a victim of this system. She was robbed of her ability to swallow. We all want to die in peace and pain-free. How many of us have heard someone we love and who is at the point of death asking for release? Let’s provide that release, but properly, not through imperfect processes.
Catherine Howe
Malvern, Worcestershire

• A few years ago, a friend of mine died of an exceptionally painful form of cancer. During his last 36 hours he was in agony and although his wife requested more painkiller this was forbidden as he had been given the maximum dose. During a discussion with one of his nurses, his wife was told that patients with this form of cancer always went through 36 hours of agony before falling into a coma and then dying. There was no possibility of any last-minute relief.

His wife asked, if this was the unchangeable pattern for the end of life with this form of cancer, why his death could not be induced in order to avoid the agony.

She was told that such an action is currently illegal. As she said, if she let an animal suffer in such a way, she could be prosecuted and sent to jail. Perhaps each case should be considered on its individual circumstances.
Colin Bower
Nottingham

Independent:

Hamas must be so disappointed. Only 170 dead and not many of them the children they took such care to put in the line of fire. You see, they understand the Western media better than we do ourselves.

Hearts bleed copiously whenever Israel tries to stop Hamas rockets being launched from a clutch of domestic housing. It’s nothing to do with me. I’m not Jewish and have never been to Israel. I’m a great admirer of Arab culture and the Sufis.

But why do the Hamas/Islamic Jihad threats of genocide seem to mean nothing to the bien-pensants here? Why do we keep swallowing their propaganda whole and, without pausing for a little chewing-time, start vilifying the Israelis?

Steve Kerensky, Morecambe

 

Professor Walker is right to remind us that European colonisation has historically been catastrophic for the peoples of the territories that have been annexed. Canadian Indians, Australian Aborigines, Caribs suffered horrendously. The Spanish Empire wrecked civilisations. And it is no different with Israel. Since that country has already instituted apartheid, the logical thrust of its brutal treatment of the Palestinians, the original owners of the land, will be to obliterate them.

Michael Rosenthal, Banbury, Oxfordshire

I wonder if the Israeli government realises how its lethal and apparently indiscriminate attack on Gaza is affecting public opinion, even among moderates, around the world?

Harriet Kennett, South Warnborough, Hampshire

 

Your correspondent Dr Jacob Amir’s (Letters, 12 July) history of Palestine in 1947 is highly selective, and accords with what Israel wants us to believe.

He claims that Palestinan Jewry accepted the 1947 UN partition plan, but ignores the many Jews who rejected it and wanted still more land than the 60 per cent they received from the UN. He also ignores the many Arabs who then and today oppose ethnic discrimination and favour ethnic equality within a democratic state (what today is called “the one-state solution”).

Within this framework, there would be no need to dismantle the settlements, but the settlers would have to accept the principles of democracy and ethnic equality. What is so bad about that?

John Bibby, York

 

The Israeli government has told residents in Gaza to leave their homes before the planned attack takes place. Just where are they supposed to go?

Alison Chown, Bridport, Dorset

 

In the current conflict in Gaza casualty figures play a large role in the minds of uninvolved observers. When they hear that no Israelis have been killed by missiles fired from Gaza into Israel, but that 100 Gazans have been killed by Israeli counter-strikes, people tend to sympathise with the side that has the larger body count. But that is simplistic.

Notwithstanding the fact that c.650 missiles that have been fired from Gaza into Israel in the past few days, starting the conflict, there have been no deaths in Israel because the majority of the missiles targeted at populated areas have been intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system. This has been developed by Israel at great expense precisely to protect its civilian population from such repeated attacks. The Red Alert alarm sounds to warn civilians to run for cover.

Jack Cohen, Netanya, Israel

Has Israel never considered another option in its relationship with Gaza? Instead of endless bombing which achieves nothing except to stoke further resentment and hate why not try killing with kindness? Building hospitals, schools, and generally contributing to the welfare of the people of Gaza would considerably lessen the appeal of Hamas and it might cause Israel to pause before it destroys its own handiwork.

Nicky Ford, Guildford, Surrey

 

Return of the ‘snoopers’ charter’

As Benjamin Franklin  said: “Those who would give up essential Liberty,  to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” When is a snooping charter, not a snooping charter– when David Cameron and his stooge Nick Clegg call it the Data Retention and Investigation Powers Bill (report, 11 July).

Will this legislation be applied to companies?  Will it apply to multinationals that supply weapons to terrorists?  Will it apply to tax dodgers? Will it apply to politicians? No? Thought not.

This draconian law isn’t happening in other EU countries, so why just the UK? It would seem that Obama and the NSA’s influence trumps everything, even EU law.

In 1979 Stiff Little Fingers sang “They take away our freedom in the name of liberty”. They were singing about the terrorists; 35 years later it could equally apply to our government.

Julie Partridge, London SE15

 

The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill has been allotted one day this week before the Commons and one day before the Lords before voting day and the summer recess.

This Bill has the support of all three political leaders and directly flouts the ruling of the European Court of Justice that the UK government’s powers to submit all UK citizens to electronic surveillance without particularity, judicial oversight, appeal or review are essentially illegal.

The European Human Rights Convention provides guarantees of legal protection for all citizens. This essential security is explained in the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of December 1948.

Respect for the Declaration, and implementation of the international human rights conventions that followed, is as fundamental to democracy as is the independence of the judiciary.

What evidence suddenly convinced Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Miliband that this Bill was so urgent that it must be whipped through to the vote, thereby denying Parliament the time to consider the implications and consequences of  their votes?

And why, given the acts of terrorism and violence, does the UK Government impose severe cutbacks on our police forces, and deny the police a more than decent pay rise?

Vanessa Redgrave, London SW1

 

Network Rail is definitely on track

Network Rail has been entrusted by its regulator and Government to spend and invest £38bn over the next five years in running and improving Britain’s railway (“Trains, fines and big claims – Network Rail is way off track”, 11 July).

A strong and diverse supplier base is crucial to our success. We have over 4,000 regular suppliers and of the £7bn spent and invested in our railway last year, 98.5 per cent was with companies that are based or have significant presence in the UK.

As someone new to the industry, I see clearly that we need to make further improvements, especially to train punctuality, which currently stands at 90 per cent, and we will do so over the coming years. Overall, the rail network is providing its users with a service that is seeing record levels of safety, passenger numbers, satisfaction and investment but there is still much to improve.

We recognise that we are entirely accountable for investing wisely and making every penny count to improve our railway. That is precisely what we are and will be doing.

Mark Carne, Chief Executive, Network Rail, London N1

Failing schools? Blame the council

The head of Ofsted castigates councils for not raising concerns about under-performing schools (report, 12 July).

So, after 12 years of successive governments forcing the transfer of nearly all education funding from Local Education Authorities to schools and the private sector, thus leading to the dismantling of School Effectiveness Services across the country, followed by drastic reductions in other council funding which make it impossible to find money to maintain such services, how exactly are councils supposed to do that?

John Prescott urged Tony Blair not to abolish LEAs because then any blame for shortcomings would fall on national government. Wrong again, John.

Paul Clein, Liverpool

 

Same-sex ballroom dancing ban

Joyce Grenfell would have been dismayed to learn that two ladies should not dance together and then would not have written, “Stately as a galleon, we glided across the floor…” (report, 11 July).

Lorna Roberts, London N2

 

Bemused by bearded barbs

Janet Street-Porter writes (12 July) that she doesn’t know a single woman who finds a full beard remotely attractive. As someone with a full beard, I can put her mind at rest.

Steve Mills, London SW17

Times:

Scotland’s higher education and scientific research benefit from the best of both worlds

Sir, Scotland has one of the world’s most successful higher education systems. Much of this success is because Scottish HE and research enjoy the best of both worlds. Scotland is an integral part of the UK Higher Education and Research Council network. Scottish institutions receive over 13 per cent of the UK Research Council funding and receive 13 per cent of the research funding distributed by the UK charities. Scottish researchers also benefit from access to the national and international facilities and collaborations which the UK research councils support. This has been complemented by devolution of direct funding for the universities. This has allowed Scotland to pursue policies such as research pooling which brings together the complementary strengths of different institutions.

The break-up of the UK would undermine this so we profoundly disagree with the letter (July 8) from Professors Bryan Macgregor and Mike Danson and Dr Stephen Watson claiming that an independent Scotland “will be better placed to support its universities”.

An independent Scotland will face many financial challenges and the Scottish government has not convinced on how it will balance the budget after 2016, putting research resources in jeopardy.

Scotland makes important contributions to UK and international research through well-established networks that depend significantly on resources shared with the rest of the UK. Both Scotland and the UK will be the poorer if this is damaged in any way.

Professor John Coggins

Glasgow and

Professor Susan Shaw

Dunblane

Sir, Sir Michael Atiyah’s faith in a Scottish liberality on immigration is not borne out by the Yes side’s own plans and White Paper. If he had made voter inquiries to them like I have — including several times through decent, caring Yes supporters who had no idea that their side’s position is as it is — he would find that they will not budge from threatening us with a new Clearances. They will not make it an unrefusable entitlement to inherit citizenship from a parent.

Maurice Frank

Edinburgh

Sir, You publish a lament from a person of Scottish descent, living in England but still convinced she has a right to vote in the referendum.

Such an important poll cannot rely on the vagaries of who, (in)exactly, qualifies as Scottish. Parenthood or place of birth should count for nothing compared to the views of those who live there. Before moving south I worked for almost 40 years in Scotland. Had I remained there, I reckon that, even as a Welshman, I would had earned the right to express a view on the future of the country. Once I moved away, my views became irrelevant.

Shorthand references to “the Scots” unfortunately bolster this erroneous sense of injustice. Whatever the people of Scotland decide in September, it is permanent residence that should be the chief criterion for eligibility to vote.

Trevor Field

Hexham, Northumberland

Sir, As Professor Pennington points out (letter, July 11), an independent Scotland would apply to join Nato to be protected by the very nuclear weapons which the SNP and its supporters abhor.

Stuart Smith

Helensburgh

Family members, often grandparents, who care for children miss out on the extra cash for foster parents and others

Sir, I welcome the extra money and leave entitlements the government has introduced for adoptive families but I wonder why these are available only to those who adopt and not to the hidden army of 200,000 grandparents and family (kinship) carers who raise children which cannot live with their parents and have similarly difficult backgrounds.

Kinship carers provide stable homes to traumatised children who would otherwise be in the care system. Thus they stay within their wider family, and huge amounts of state money are saved. Outcomes for children in kinship care tend to be better than outcomes for those in care. Yet despite having significant needs, they are usually left unsupported. As a result seven in ten carers are stressed, depressed or isolated. As they have no leave entitlements, nearly half give up their jobs. Many end up in poverty.

Kinship carers deserve the same recognition as adopters, and a poll published today suggests the public agrees with them. It’s time to care about kinship care.

Sam Smethers

Chief Executive, Grandparents Plus

Cathy Ashley

Chief Executive, Family Rights Group

Robert Tapsfield

Chief Executive, The Fostering Network

Elaine Farmer

Professor of Child and Family Studies, University of Bristol

Barbara Hutchinson

Stunning is not incompatible with Islamic requirements when butchering animals for food

Sir, As a practising Muslim who has been closely involved with the question of Islamic slaughter of animals, I applaud Nizar Boga for stating that stunning is not incompatible with Islamic requirements and that not stunning compromises animal welfare (“Koran doesn’t ban stunning animals, insists imam”, July 7).

I would add that non-stunning also compromises the health of consumers — adrenaline, for example, released into the body by the slaughter process is accepted as a carcinogen.

I would like to express equally strongly how much I deplore Mr Abdul Majid Katme’s statement that he is against stunning because of his desire to “follow the Prophet” — thus giving an extremely inaccurate and negative impression of the Prophet’s attitude to animal welfare. No one is trying to prevent the throat cut and other specific halal requirements, but the Prophet added at the end of his directives on treating the creature to be slaughtered with utmost consideration and not letting it be aware that slaughter is intended so as not to upset it, “wa arih dhabeehatak” (and relax the animal which is to be slaughtered). As precise stunning was not available in his time, one can only conclude that his statement providentially left the door open for it, probably even alludes to it — and to not stun pre slaughter is actually unhalal now that the possibility of totally preventing the animal’s suffering is an option.

Princess Alia Al Hussein

Amman, Jordan

It is worth being correct about the exact time of events in the lead-up to the Great War

Sir, Two errors regularly appear in connection with the beginning of the Great War in August 1914. Firstly, it is said that Great Britain declared war on Germany at midnight on Aug 4 when of course it was at 11pm — the midnight in Britain is being confused with it being midnight in Berlin. The second error is the assumption that Edward Grey made his famous remark about “The lamps going out all over Europe” the same evening that war was declared. According to Grey’s own account he was speaking to a friend the night before, ie, at dusk on Aug 3. JA Spender, a close ally of Grey and editor of the Westminster Gazette, made a strong claim for being the “friend”. In his memoirs, Life, Journalism and Politics published in the late 1920s, he recalled that it was when Grey was looking out of his Foreign Office window and saw the first lamps in the Mall being lit that he spoke his immortal lines.

Gerald Gliddon

Brooke, Norfolk

Lady? Woman? If it matters, then men must all be gentlemen – and other issues of note

Sir, You report that the British Dance Council will vote on a new rule that partnerships for dance competitions will be “one man and one lady” unless otherwise stated (July 11).

Why is it not “one man and one woman”? What is wrong with the word “woman” (or women).

If it is assumed that all women are “ladies” why are men not given the same benefit of any doubt and assumed to be “gentlemen”?

Marilyn Healy

Perth

Sir, Sweden has a new female archbishop. Antje Jackelén was installed on June 15 as Archbishop of Uppsala, the head of the church of Sweden.

Inger Lock

Crowborough East Sussex

Sir, You say (July 14) that Muslim chaplains condone beating women “to bring them to goodness”. Muslim chaplains cannot be blamed for following the teaching of the Koran which says: “As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them, refuse to share their bed and beat them” (Surat An-Nisa, 34)

Nabil Jajawi

London NW9

Telegraph:

SIR – Clive Aslet writes of the enigmas of the “death-defying” yew tree. Another aspect of the yew’s remarkable regenerative properties is found in its medicinal poison. Sir Herbert Maxwell, quoting Pliny, explains that the adjective toxicus (“poisonous”) was once written taxicus – from taxus, the yew.

The cancer treatment, Taxol, relies on the needles of specific species of yew tree.

Prof Peter O Behan
Bearsden, Dunbartonshire

SIR – A friend of mine recalls being told at school one day never ever to eat yew berries as they were deadly poisonous. On his way home he saw an elderly man under a yew tree eating the berries. When my friend warned him of the error of his ways, the elderly man said: “My boy, eat these and you’ll never have cancer.” Since then at every opportunity, mainly in the churchyard on Sundays, my friend will devour a handful of the red berries (discarding the stones). The old man would be heartened to hear that today the yew is indeed being researched in the fight against cancer.

SIR – Michael Gove’s ban on holidays in term time has led to several prosecutions (report, July 12). But police, firemen, postal delivery staff and other key workers cannot all simply down tools and push off on seven weeks’ summer holiday. If vital services are to be maintained, their holidays need to be evenly spread, meaning that some of these workers’ holidays will be squeezed into term time.

Are their children expected to have no holidays or to holiday with just one parent?

Peter Forrest
London N6

SIR – During 18 years of headship in the primary sector, I had many requests from parents to take their children on holiday during term time. I cannot remember refusing any of them.

On most occasions the parents could not go away at any other time, or could not afford the ridiculous price hikes during holiday periods. Most requests were during the summer term when, in any case, there were a lot of disruptions such as sports days or swimming galas. We prepared a programme of work for the children to complete during their absence. The resultant goodwill was of great benefit to the school.

Mike Aston
Wollaston, Worcestershire

Policing appearance

SIR – Might I suggest that the 10-point code of ethics drawn up by The Royal College of Policing includes the appearance of officers?

The black shirts, combat trousers and boots of police officers, together with their often shaved heads and frequent stubble, makes them look unapproachable. Where did the idea of baseball caps come from, and what practical use do they serve?

Do their managers not care what the public thinks about them?

Dr Chris Daley
Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Operation Jupiter

SIR – Your leading article rightly recalls our soldiers’ bravery in the First World War and today. Last Friday, a House of Commons motion also commemorated Operation Jupiter, that took place during the Second World War on July 10-12 1944. This was part of the pivotal 40-day battle for Hill 112 near Caen, a hill that Rommel described as the key to Normandy. It was one of the bloodiest battles of the war and its intensity has been compared by military historians to Verdun and Passchendaele. 7,000 soldiers died – 2,000 of them in 24 hours.

Operation Jupiter was fought by the 130 Brigade of the 43rd (Wessex) Division – comprising young, courageous Territorials including Royal Artillery, Royal Tank Regiments and county infantry regiments from Dorset, Hampshire, Somerset, Wiltshire, Cornwall, Worcestershire and Scotland – against the fanatical SS Hitlerjugend, Panzer, Tiger and Grenadier tank battalions. Those who defeated Hitler’s Germany and saved our country, our parliamentary democracy and Europe itself must also now be remembered.

Sir Bill Cash MP (Con)

London SW1

Off yer bike, postie

SIR – I live in a small village that is served by two postmen, whom I recently complimented on a brand-new Post Office van. They explained that they were not allowed to use their bicycles any more on health-and-safety grounds, in case they fell off. They said they only did two miles a day in the van, which was taxed and insured. Is this why the price of stamps has gone up?

Lindy Dane

Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire

The demise of the pub

SIR – Mark Prior is far from alone in regretting that pubs have become like kindergartens (Letters, July 12).

Licensees today are so desperate to get people through the door that they will tolerate unacceptable behaviour. In doing so they drive away good customers.

Iain Gordon

Banstead, Surrey

SIR – Most pubs these days are like a cross between a crèche and a disco. Despite being virulently anti-smoking, I would back its return in pubs if only to get rid of the shrieking infants.

Steve Thomas

Brackley, Northamptonshire

The Bhoys from Brazil

SIR – Cowdenbeath, who have historically been one of the worst teams in Scottish professional football, were, some 30 years ago, nicknamed with true Scottish irony, “The Blue Brazil”.

Given the manner of their capitulation in the World Cup, should Brazil now be called “The Yellow Cowdenbeath”?

Eric Davidson
Perth

Big fridges mean fewer trips to the supermarket

SIR – You report on a study commissioned by the Department of Energy & Climate Change urging us to stop buying big fridges and large televisions.

It is a 16-mile (26km) round trip to our nearest good food shop. We take little interest in sell-by dates because what is kept in fridge and freezer will long outlast them. The result is far fewer fuel emissions and fuel costs, and little food wastage.

Professor Michael Jefferson
Melchbourne, Bedfordshire

SIR – As an renewable energy consultant engineer, I was bemused by the idea that the middle classes should stop buying large fridges and televisions in order to save £36 per year. The kind of people who have £2,000 to spend on a fridge don’t care about saving money and will gladly drive huge off-road vehicles in urban areas. If the team at Loughborough University had concentrated on helping households do an energy audit, this may have been of more benefit.

In my opinion, if house insulation was improved with air heat exchangers (heat pumps), large electrical devices would actually reduce heating energy bills.

Tim Wynne-Jones
Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire

SIR – If I am to buy a smaller fridge, where will I store the copious amounts of fresh produce that I am encouraged by health initiatives to grow in my vegetable patch?

Jules Bowes Davies
Newcastle Emlyn, Carmarthenshire

SIR – Lord Carey’s support for “assisted dying”, based on his belief that “the old philosophical certainties have collapsed in the face of needless suffering” is not so much astonishing as baffling.

Killing a weak person is a counsel of despair. If the Good Samaritan had followed it, he would have knocked the injured man on the head to spare his suffering rather than taking him to an inn to be cared for. No doubt pouring oil and wine into his wounds appears primitive, but it was a much more hopeful approach.

Lord Carey’s words offer no comfort for the sick and dying, but they will boost a campaign that is constantly seeking good reasons for doing a very bad thing.

Ann Farmer

Woodford Green, Essex

SIR – For most people, palliative care can alleviate much of the suffering that the dying process causes, but for some it cannot.

We believe in compassionately respecting the wishes of terminally ill adults who wish to control the time and manner of their death, if they consider their suffering unbearable. And rather than turn a blind eye to dying people taking matters into their own hands, a new law with up-front safeguards, as recently recognised by the President of the Supreme Court, would do far more to protect potentially vulnerable people than the status quo.

Sarah Wootton
Chief Executive, Dignity in Dying
London W1

SIR – Lord Avebury’s no doubt well-meant views on the Assisted Dying Bill (Letters, July 7) suggest to me either naivety or a determination to ignore the fact that, however much the law requires the patient to “initiate” the process and two doctors to sign it off, if passed, its operation will be open to misuse as Charles Moore suggested.

The law will not prevent anyone hinting or suggesting to a patient that they “initiate” the process, any more than the Abortion Act prevents doctors signing off approvals for abortions in blank, leaving others to fill in the name on the form.

This is compounded by a Crown Prosecution Service which appears more than unwilling to prosecute in such circumstances. If it is passed, the Bill will ensure that in time the ability to have one’s demise “assisted” will actually provide a means for anyone to end the lives of inconvenient people while hiding behind the law to avoid punishment for their role in murder.

David Pearson
Haworth, West Yorkshire

SIR – Lord Carey is surely to be admired for changing his view on assisted suicide after witnessing the inhumane suffering of Tony Nicklinson, who was desperate to die on his own terms. It is all very well for those who believe that their religion confirms an afterlife and therefore the sanctity of life, but that view should not be allowed to control the fates of others.

Those who wish to suffer for their belief up to the very end may do so, but that should not deny the rest of us the means to end our lives when we choose to.

B J Colby
Portishead, Somerset

SIR – I wonder if Lord Falconer has any knowledge of, or concern for, the distress and anguish this Bill will cause for the disabled when it is debated.

I am the husband of an almost totally disabled younger wife, who is not impecunious. What life can she expect, when, and if, well-meaning persons – or those who want her money – put pressure on her to end her life after I am gone?

Don Snuggs
Peterborough

SIR – It is interesting that most of the people in favour of assisted dying are not those who will be expected to write the prescription, mix the cocktail or put up the drip.

Dr Donal Collins
Gosport, Hampshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Surely Melvyn Wilcox (July 12th) is not serious in expecting sympathy for Israel as it defies international laws in its attacks on Gaza, leading to over 100 deaths, and with its prime minister stating that it will defy all pressure to cease these attacks? It must surely seem to the Palestinians that the state of Israel is a law until itself, as demonstrated over the years in its disregard of UN resolutions condemning the grab of Palestinian land through settlements, etc. All violence is wrong and only leads to more but it must be pointed out that there is a vast difference between that meted out by Israel and that engaged in by the Palestinians. It is time the rest of the world woke up and dealt with this so-called democratic state, which claims retaliation is an acceptable weapon in resolving disputed territories. Of course, without the support of the US, Israel would be much more amenable to reaching a civilised agreement, and the US bears a lot of responsibility for this tragic dispute. – Yours, etc,

MARY STEWART,

Ardeskin,

Donegal Town.

Sir, – The major beneficiary of the current fighting between Hamas and Israel is of course Iran – the main backer of Hamas and supplier of its weapons, ammunition and long range rockets. Not only does Iran get to fight a proxy war with Israel but the suffering of Palestinian and Israeli civilians helps deflect the world’s attention from the ayatollahs’ treatment of their fellow citizens, especially women.

Last Tuesday, the Iranian journalist Marzieh Rasouli started a two-year sentence in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran, where she is also due to receive 50 lashes. Marzieh Rasouli mainly writes about literature but her real crime was to support the pro-democracy street protests in Iran in 2009 and post so-called “anti-state propaganda” on her blog. She joins at least 64 journalists and bloggers already serving harsh sentences in Iranian jails. – Yours, etc,

KARL MARTIN,

Bayside Walk,

Dublin 13.

Sir, – Why is it always the hallmark of western politicians and media commentary to equate Israel’s horrific assaults on civilian populations with those by the fairly insignificant efforts of Hamas to defend the people of Gaza? This is obscene.

When the two representative bodies of the Palestinian people, Hamas and Fatah, made a peaceful unity pact, the Israeli government responded in the usual way by threatening financial sanctions, walking away from the peace talks and bombing Gaza, injuring 12 civilians, including children between the ages of five and twelve.

Now, having provoked the firing of rockets by its rampage through the West Bank following the death of three Israeli teenagers (which left many Palestinians dead, injured or imprisoned), Israel is raining down terror on a practically defenceless population. Israel’s latest horrific onslaught has little to do with rocket fire from Gaza. Hysteria is being deliberately whipped up in Israel as it uses the excuse of the tragic murder of three Israeli teenagers to collectively punish the entire Palestinian population and attempt to dismantle the Fatah/Hamas unity pact.

Most western politicians and the West’s media pundits should bow their heads in shame at the lack of criticism and analysis of what is being done to Gazans. – Yours, etc,

JIM ROCHE,

Irish Anti-War

Movement,

PO Box 9260,

Dublin 1.

Sir, – I grew up gazing at the Pigeon House across Dublin Bay, and it is an indelible part of the Dublin skyline of my memory. I am saddened by the thought that the Poolbeg chimneys might be demolished. Non-Dubliners may wonder why anyone would miss two disused and rather ugly power station chimneys.

For many emigrants, the chimneys were the last thing we looked at as the plane took us away, and the first thing that we looked for on our infrequent return visits. Eyesores or not, they’re an emblem of home. – Yours, etc,

NIALL McARDLE,

Wellington Street,

Eganville, Ontario.

Sir, – Further to Frank McDonald’s “Odd couple have become markers of our capital city” (July 12th), what would Frank’s opinion be if the ESB proposed to put up two more towers at Poolbeg? – Yours, etc,

WAYNE HARDING,

The Village Inn,

Main Street,

Slane,

Co Meath.

Sir, – I read with interest the resurrection of the debate over the demolition of the Poolbeg chimneys. I propose that these twin redundant structures be replaced with one large wind turbine.

This would make a bold visual statement to both visitors and citizens at the gateway to Dublin. It would be a symbol of a modern, dynamic and sustainable economy, rather than a constant reminder of our historic and continued reliance on fossil fuels to provide power for our homes and workplaces.

Those who lament the passing of the chimneys because they “have always been there” and after a few decades “have become part of the landscape”, could now rejoice in a new wind turbine which would serve a useful function and would generate enough electricity to power about 4,000 homes in nearby Ringsend, Sandymount or Clontarf. – Yours, etc,

TOM BRUTON,

Chartered Engineer,

Rivervale,

Ashtown,

Dublin 15 .

Sir, – On behalf of all Dublin golfers, I am starting a “Save Our Chimneys” campaign, since these iconic structures have been a lot more than just “a reassuring presence” (Christian Morris, July 12th), they are an indispensable distant target to aim at on many of the Dublin golf courses. And, for the very low handicappers, “Do you mean the left or the right chimney?” Please retain the chimneys, or at least relocate the Spire so that we have something tangible to aim at. – Yours, etc,

JOHN RISELEY,

Coundon Court,

Killiney,Co Dublin.

Sir, – Why are we ignoring alternative uses for these structures?

Here are a few. Put windmills on them. Use them for the incinerator, if we ever build one. Put in lifts and platforms like the Toronto or Seattle towers and have viewing platforms, rotating restaurants and bungee jumping from a platform between them. – Yours, etc,

DAVID DOYLE,

Birchfield Park,

Goatstown,

Dublin 14.

Sir, – Further to John A Murphy’s “Why we should be wary of Sinn Féin in government” (Opinion & Analysis, July 9th), mainstream Irish political parties react to events. They do not ever pre-empt them. And they will not now. They run around headless chicken-style while Sinn Féin get its troops aligned and ready to march.

There is little point in reminding ourselves of the history of Sinn Féin. Many are sickened by their sympathies and the past deeds of their leaders. That no longer matters. Those who have nothing believe that Sinn Féin will save them. They believe that anything is better than the non-policies of the mainstream parties. And so, they will vote Sinn Féin. And who can blame them?

We must remember that we get the government we deserve. The parties currently in power need to start implementing policies that will help and not hinder the people. – Yours, etc,

PATRICIA R MOYNIHAN,

Castlegrange Park,

Castaheany,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – If Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin (July 12th) really want to alleviate fears about their entry into government after the next general election they should repudiate the violence of the Provisional IRA. For more than a quarter of century Sinn Féin turned its back on peaceful and democratic politics and supported a violent armed struggle that resulted in the deaths of thousands of people. Far from contributing to Irish unity the IRA campaign reinforced partition and deepened sectarian divisions in Northern Ireland. As my colleague Prof John A Murphy pointed out, only when the IRA campaign ran into the ground did Sinn Féin enter into a peace process. That process will only be complete when Sinn Féin disassociates itself from its violent history by accepting that the IRA was wrong and those like John A Murphy who supported a non-violent and constitutional nationalism and republicanism were right. – Yours, etc,

Prof GEOFFREY

ROBERTS,

School of History,

University College Cork.

Sir, – What is an historian if not a “revisionist” (July 12th)? It is usually said of someone whose politics you disagree with. It’s a cant, lazy term to level at Prof John A Murphy, and unworthy of the intelligence and loquacity of Gerry Adams (July 12th). – Yours, etc,

ANTONY FARRELL,

The Lilliput Press,

Sitric Road,

Arbour Hill,

Dublin 7.

Sir, – An Taoiseach has done it again. By coupling Defence with Agriculture he is effectively confirming Defence as a junior ministry.

Yet another sad day for those who take national defence seriously.

To say the least, it would never have happened in Liam Cosgrave’s time. Perhaps An Taoiseach will assign Simon Coveney a Minister of State who can look after Agriculture, so that the new Minister can concentrate properly on Defence matters? – Yours, etc,

Col DORCHA LEE (retired),

The Pines,

Beaufort Place,

Navan,

Co Meath.

Sir, – Simon Coveney, Minister for Defence and De Fences. – Yours, etc,

ÁINNLE O’NEILL,

Osprey Drive,

Templeogue,

Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Consigning such consummate parliamentarians as Messrs Gilmore, Quinn and Rabbitte to the backbenches makes no sense to me.

However, I wish Joan Burton well; and I sincerely hope she doesn’t rue to day she got rid of arguably Labour’s best and brightest – though somewhat long in the tooth – political operators. – Yours, etc,

PAUL DELANEY,

Beacon Hill,

Dalkey,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Are we to believe that there is nobody within the gay community with the skills needed to decorate a cake, and that this is not a contrived controversy? – Yours, etc,

SEAMUS O’CALLAGHAN,

Bullock Park,

Carlow.

Sir, – I was once asked to sign a Mass card to express condolences on the death of a colleague’s relative. While I had no difficulty with offering condolences, I felt that as I was no longer a believer in the faith that expresses itself in the use of such cards, I could not in conscience add my signature to one.

I have to admit that I have now come to regard my approach as priggish and self-righteous. No useful purpose was served other than to give me the smug satisfaction of being “right”. In the broader context of decency and kindness, I know I had failed.

Perhaps the offended bakers and the offended gays should get together over a neutrally decorated humble pie and dig into it with gusto. Maybe their worlds would be a little better for the effort involved. – Yours, etc,

PETER KENNY,

Hillside Drive,

Dublin 14.

Sir, – In exploring the world of Bert and Ernie, Breda O’Brien (“Bert and Ernie’s bromance offers a lesson in tolerance”, Opinion & Analysis, July 12th) writes, “It seems increasingly difficult for a modern audience to conceive that two men could share a flat without also sharing a bed.”

This brought me back 50 years or more, to that mischievous elf Noddy, who shared a bed with Big Ears.

As a young adult, I watched Eric Morecambe share a bed with another Ernie. With the benefit of hindsight and in the interests of clarity and transparency, I must ask, was it Wise? – Yours, etc,

GERRY CHRISTIE,

Monalee,

Tralee, Co Kerry.

Tue, Jul 15, 2014, 01:06

First published: Tue, Jul 15, 2014, 01:06

Sir, – The images of Christ the Redeemer and the city of Rio de Janeiro during the World Cup final were quite stunning and matched an extraordinary occasion. Brazil endured many months of vilification that it was not in control of developments and would not meet the competition deadlines. How wrong those detractors were. The atmosphere, the seamless organisation and the sheer scale and beauty of that wonderful country were unforgettable and will live long in the memory. – Yours, etc,

DEREK MacHUGH,

Westminster Lawns,

Foxrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Congratulations on your excellent World Cup coverage. Among a fine team, Tom Hennigan’s contributions stood out, in particular his appreciation of the underrated Dirk Kuyt (“Kuyt’s marathon run comes to an end”, July 10th). – Yours, etc,

BILL REDMOND,

Mountcastle Drive,

Edinburgh.

A chara, – Bill O’Herlihy’s infectious enthusiasm, quick thinking and love of fun will be sorely missed from RTÉ’s soccer coverage. – Is mise,

JASON POWER,

St Kevin’s Gardens,

Dartry, Dublin 6.

Sir, – I was pleasantly surprised by the commonsense expressed in your editorial “Protecting cyclists” (July 12th). Thanks for showing some leadership here.

In Dublin, the increase in the numbers of commuters using bicycles has been aided by the heavy-goods vehicle ban, the bike-to-work scheme and the unexpected success of the Dublinbikes rental scheme.

Safety is one of the key factors holding back even more people from choosing this convenient urban mobility solution.

We really do need to modify our transport environment so that riding a bike is as easy as riding a bike.– Yours, etc,

KEVIN O’FARRELL,

Shelmartin Avenue,

Marino, Dublin 3.

Sir, – Derek Scally (“Merkel faces dilemma over revelations about double-agent”, July 9th) provides a concise and informative overview of German–US relations in the aftermath of the most recent spying revelations.

However his depiction of this relationship as “a dialogue of the deaf” contradicts the analysis he presents in his article.

Deaf people in Ireland may be categorised by their preferred language – in the majority of cases this will be either Irish Sign Language or English.

“A dialogue of the deaf” in either language is the very opposite of the meaning suggested by Mr Scally’s use of the term, ie a failure to communicate.

This term perpetuates a profoundly misleading characterisation of deaf people. – Yours, etc,

DAVID O’BRIEN,

Currabeg,

Skibbereen,

Co Cork.

Sir, – Many thanks to Michael Flanagan (“An Irishman’s Diary”, July 14th) for reminding me of Our Boys magazine and of my Christian Brothers’ education (Donore Avenue 1948-1952 and Synge Street).

One of my memories is of the Brother reading Kitty the Hare aloud to calm down an unruly class. The other memory is of the jokes page where there were prizes of five shillings and two shillings and sixpence. The cornier the jokes were, the better.

In particular I remember the one about the lady ordering coal by telephone, to which the reply was “Certainly, Madam. Would you like it a la carte or cul de sac?” – Yours, etc,

TONY CORCORAN,

Fairbrook Lawn,

Rathfarnham,

Dublin 14.

Sir, – John Fitzgerald (July 14th) should know that the alternative means of dying for a badger are to die of a combination of disease and starvation or as a result of being run over and left to die on the road. Death is never pleasant for wild animals. Furthermore, if he has any evidence of badger baiting he should present it to An Garda Síochána. – Yours, etc,

RICHARD ALLEN,

Cummeen House,

Strandhill Road,

Sligo.

Sir, – In Ciara O’Brien’s witty and informative article on electric cars (“A charged affair – my brief fling with an electric car”, Pricewatch, July 14th), she barely touches on the most dangerous feature, silence. – Yours, etc,

MATTIE LENNON,

Lacken,

Blessington,

Co Wicklow.

Irish Independent:

* The limitations of reason and argument in sorting the great questions of life are clearly evident in dealing with the reality of death, brought into sharp relief in the current debate about assisted dying.

What I find unhelpful is the withering scorn poured on those who believe in an afterlife. One tires of the persistent casual caricature of what believers actually believe, particularly about death and afterlife.

Faith is not an affront to reason; faith and reason occupy different worlds. Faith is unreasonable only when you are unwilling or unable to engage in conversation about your beliefs.

Believing is a kind of falling in love rather than assent to a set of propositions.

What is important for the dying person is to realise that their life was worthwhile. It is for this reason that we should not focus on what we will get in another life but what we have given in this life.

The poet William Wordsworth speaks of “that best portion of a good man’s life, those little nameless unremembered acts of kindness and of love”.

Moral life is not constituted by loyalty to some universal law but by living out my responsibility for the other person.

We all need assisted living prior to any consideration of assisted dying.

When dying, people tend to look back on their lives to identify what was most worthwhile and memorable.

The philosopher Aristotle saw time as the measure between events. If there are no significant humanly valuable experiences in your life, particularly that of loving and being loved, time contracts to nothing.

The dominant fear around death in Ireland has always been the expectation of God’s judgment.

There remain some residual elements of this fear sustained by the notion of Hell. The writer CS Lewis suggested that the gates of Hell were locked on the inside, the occupants refusing to leave.

A loving God is best conceived of as the council for defence. The judgment of such a God must be more like a knowing smile – an act of healing – than the judgment of a court of law.

PHILIP O’NEILL

EDITH ROAD, OXFORD, OX1 4QB

How Babe Ruth got start in life

* Babe Ruth, an American, was born as George Herman Ruth in 1895 in Baltimore, Maryland. His was a poor family. Six of his eight siblings died in childhood, and his father died in a knife fight after his mother had passed away from tuberculosis not long before that. It was a certainty back then that a boy who had a background like George, either marginally better or worse, was going to end up in St Mary’s industrial/ reformatory institution in the same city. But this place was different, not only for its time but its ethos in how it viewed children in a place run by Christian Brothers who are more famous today for abusing children than saving them. They would save George and give America and the world one of the greatest baseball players that had ever lived.

How they did it was through the kind of forward thinking that many authorities and parents are still trying to grasp the basics of even today. The order of the Xaverian Brothers, yet another strand of Christian Brothers, was different. Its ethos was simple: inadequacies of upbringing rather than deficencies of character were to blame for a child that grows into a bad man – and that any boy treated with encouragement and respect would grow into a model citizen.

It was not speculation, but based on their own tried and tested set of ideals rooted in a firm and strong morality. With a 95pc success rate it would have been hard to argue that they were not 100pc right. What also saved Babe Ruth was that it seemed these Brothers were obsessed with baseball like the rest of the United States.

BARRY CLIFFORD

OUGHTERARD, CO GALWAY

Israel must protect itself

* In consideration of the ongoing crisis in Gaza, the anti-Israel lobby in the whole world frequently attempts to portray the Jewish state as some sort of reactionary bully that disproportionately responds to every little old high-explosive rocket fired at its territory.

Such claims, however, rely on the supposition that Israel sets out to avenge itself on people and entities who attempt to and often do damage it. Such assumptions are unfairly made, and are even insulting, since revenge is something best left to Hamas terrorists and their pals, who for more than half a century have been getting back at Israel and the rest of the world for an alleged injustice 66 years ago with suicide bombings and kidnappings.

No, instead, Israel sets out to immobilise the Hamas war machine and prevent it from targeting it again: directing fire against underground supply tunnels from Egypt, ammunition depots, rocket-launching sites, and even known terrorists’ homes. It’s interesting to note that, in response to these precision attacks, Hamas has been encouraging (if not forcing) Palestinian civilians to sit between these sites and the Israeli military. Such heinous, criminal tactics as human shields are undeniably what lead to high casualty rates during these flare-ups.

In any case, every death in their war is a tragedy – more so when it’s civilian – and there must be a better way to resolve the Palestinian question. However, so long as Hamas continues to preach its “Death to all Jews” brand of anti-Semitic hatred, and to call for the annihilation of Israel, it cannot be involved in the process. Neither, though, can Israel be expected to sit on its hands in expectation of some other way presenting itself, while rockets and mortars rain down on Beer Sheva in the south, to as far north as Jerusalem itself. It must and should protect itself.

KILLIAN FOLEY-WALSH

KILKENNY CITY

Stop clamouring to be like UK

* The year 1916 is one that many go back to when discussing the real push for Irish freedom, as it is called. Indeed, commemorations at a national level seem to go back as far as 1916 in rhetoric and that is it. This year a major impetus has been put into including Irishmen who fell or were injured during the war to end all wars. Any issue that may arise from the reasons they were lain in silence before are superseded by the fact that a new group of fallen have officially joined the fallen heroes of Ireland.

This raises questions about who else should we include. Should we mention a few Fenians, or Wolfe Tone or Robert Emmet ? Should we remember Gunner McGee and the fallen of the Year of the French?

Should we go off the reservation and move also beyond the military struggle in our commemorations?

The inclusion of the fallen who fell for Britain in the Great War is welcome but does it mean that all else is forgotten in the clamour to be so like our neighbours that it seems all rather overbearing.

DERMOT RYAN

ATTYMON, ATHENRY, CO GALWAY

What a sight at the World Cup!

* My drinking pals and myself were swelling beer, and watching the World Cup final in Rio on Sunday. We were the ultimate experts on the game, the proverbial hurlers on the ditch. We did not have a care in the world especially about the EU economy. We knew it was in the capable hands of the leaders of the EU countries.

But lo and behold whom did we see ensconsed in the middle of the VIP stand in the Maracana but the Chancellor of the German republic. What a shock!

And Angela Merkel, we thought you were working.

C CASEY

CASTLEBAR, CO MAYO

Irish Independent

Jill

July 14, 2014

14July2014 Jill

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. A quiet day Jill comes to call

ScrabbleIwin, but gets under 400. perhaps Marywill win tomorrow.

Obituary:

Asher Ben-Natan – obituary

Asher Ben-Natan was an Israeli diplomat who led the hunt for Adolf Eichmann and built bridges with post-war Germany

Asher Ben-Natan in Frankfurt in 1969

Asher Ben-Natan in Frankfurt in 1969  Photo: DPA/ROLAND WITSCHEL

6:34PM BST 13 Jul 2014

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Asher Ben-Natan, who has died aged 93, initiated the operation to hunt down the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann and later served as Israel’s first ambassador to Bonn, helping to turn Germany into one of his country’s closest allies in Europe.

Diplomatic ties between Germany and Israel went back to the 1950s when, in what became known as the Luxembourg Agreement, signed by then-Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and then-Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett, Bonn committed itself to pay 3.5 billion German marks in compensation to Jewish victims of the Nazis. However, it was only after Ben-Natan and his German counterpart, Rolf Pauls, presented their letters of accreditation in 1965 that the relationship began to flower into friendship and trust.

Asher Ben-Natan (r) in 1968 with the minister of transport, Georg Leber (m), and the Hesse Prime Minister Georg August Zinn (2nd from left) opening the Lufthansa flight, Frankfurt – Munich – Tel Aviv (DPA)

Today, the German Jewish community is one of the fastest growing in the world, while each year scores of young Germans travel to Israel to work as volunteers in hospitals, institutions for people with disabilities and homes for elderly Holocaust survivors.

When the reunification of Germany was mooted in 1989, there were misgivings expressed in some European capitals, but Ben-Natan had no fears: “A united Germany is not an Israeli concern — in fact, it’s not even a Jewish concern,” he declared. “Forty years of democracy in Germany have imbued democratic attitudes deep enough in the German conscience to make a return to totalitarianism unthinkable.”

It was a very different world from the Europe Ben-Natan was born into on February 15 1921. His birth name was Arthur Piernikartz and he was born in Vienna where his father, Natan, ran a clothing business (Arthur would change his name to Asher Ben-Natan in his honour, after moving to Israel).

Asher Ben Nathan (l) meets president of the Bundesrat, Georg August Zinn, in 1965 (DPA)

Arthur was educated at a Hebrew high school and became an enthusiastic member of the Young Maccabi, a pioneering Zionist youth movement which had been established in Prague in 1929.

In 1934 his father, sensing the way things were going in Austria, bought a five-acre plot of land in what was then British Mandate Palestine. Following the Anschluss of March 1938 and the confiscation of their clothing business, the family made plans to escape at a time when it was still possible to do so.

Young Arthur led the way, fleeing to Piraeus, Greece, where he boarded a decrepit boat flying the Panamanian flag, bound for Palestine. “The ship was crowded and filthy, and our food consisted only of dry rusks, sardines and olives, but we were young and our spirits were high,” he recalled. “We were dropped off at Tantura, near Zichron Yaakov, about 30 metres from the beach, which we traversed on foot … We saw that some young men were galloping on horses along the coast. Later we found out that these were Etzel [the Zionist paramilitary group Irgun] people, whose task was to ensure our safety. We were brought by bus to Tel Aviv and dropped off in the centre of the city.”

For a while he worked in a kibbutz where he was joined, a few months later, by his parents and sister. While there he met, and in 1940 married, his wife Erika.

As news began to arrive of the fate of the Jews left behind in Europe, however, Ben-Natan felt he could no longer continue on the kibbutz. He joined the Aliyah Bet, an arm of the underground Haganah organisation which organised illegal immigration of European Jews into Palestine in violation of British restrictions. He served in its investigations unit, preparing reports, based on the testimonies of refugees, on the fate of Jewish communities in Poland, which were later used by the prosecution in the Nuremberg trials.

It was harrowing work. “The most shocking testimony I ever heard,” he recalled, “was that of a young woman who was taken, together with her two children and many other Jewish residents, out of her town by the SS. They shot every last one of them and threw them into a pit. Miraculously she was not hit and she managed to extract herself and escape. Her children were left behind with all the other corpses. I asked myself, how was she going to continue to live. How, in the face of such fiendish acts, is it possible to be annoyed with the trivia of daily life?”

After the end of the war in Europe, Ben-Natan was sent to Austria as head of Bricha, Haganah’s “illegal immigration” bureau in Europe which worked to resettle Jewish survivors who were among the millions of displaced persons languishing in refugee camps in occupied Germany and Austria. As cover he also worked under the pseudonym Arthur Pier as a correspondent for news agencies.

Until the middle of 1946 Ben-Natan was engaged in smuggling tens of thousands of Jews to Palestine with the connivance of American Army officers. In December that year he attended the 22nd Zionist conference at Basle which resolved to “establish a Jewish commonwealth integrated into the world democratic structure”, where he met Shimon Peres, the future Prime Minister (now President) of Israel, who was to become his patron.

It was during his time in post-war Vienna that Ben-Natan became involved in organising and funding Nazi-hunting operations. As well as collecting documents about some 6,000 SS men, he instructed Tuvia Friedman, a Holocaust survivor and self-appointed Nazi hunter, to track down Adolf Eichmann, one of the main architects of the Holocaust, who had escaped from a POW camp.

In fact it was the Israeli secret service, Mossad, which finally caught up with Eichmann in Argentina in 1960 (he was executed in Israel two years later). But it was Ben-Natan who made it possible. Eichmann, who continued to live in Austria under a false identity (until he fled to Argentina in 1950), had taken the precaution of destroying photographs of himself. However, Ben-Natan and Friedman discovered the address of one of his many mistresses, and dispatched a handsome Hungarian Jew, Henyek Diamant, to make her acquaintance. Posing as a Dutch member of the SS, Diamant found a photograph of Eichmann in an album of hers — it proved crucial in tracking him down.

Asher Ben-Natan in his office in 1965

At the end of 1947 Israel’s later Prime minister David Ben-Gurion called Ben-Natan back to Tel Aviv, where, in 1948, after the foundation of the state of Israel, he was appointed head of the new operations department of Israel’s Foreign Ministry’s espionage department.

In the early 1950s he was appointed chief executive officer of Incodeh, a dummy Israeli government “meat export company” in Ethiopia and French Somaliland, engaged in recruiting spies to be despatched to Arab countries.

In 1956 he became director of the purchasing committee of the Israeli Ministry of Defence in Paris, thus becoming, according to the New York Times, Israel’s “most famous secret agent”.

In 1959 he was instrumental in the negotiation of a secret German-Israeli arms deal, the discovery of which led to a break between the Arab States and Bonn, but also facilitated the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the Federal Republic of Germany.

From 1959 until his appointment as Ambassador to Bonn in 1965, Ben-Natan served as director general of the Israeli Ministry of Defence.

From 1970 until his retirement in 1974 he was Israeli Ambassador to France.

Ben-Natan’s memoirs, The Audacity to Live, published in 2007, were dedicated to his son, Amnon, who died in the Yom Kippur War. Shimon Peres said the book provided “a lesson of world history”.

Ben Naton and his wife, Erika also had a daughter.

Asher Ben-Natan, born February 15 1921, died June 17 2014

Guardian:

Dear Mr Clegg, please, please stop the coalition now. I have been involved with the Lib Dems/Liberals for over 40 years; I cut my teeth delivering Liberal leaflets when I was 13, including early-morning ones on election days. I drove around with my car covered in posters and ribbons on election days, I was a scrutineer at both local and general elections, I watched and seethed at how the Tories and Labour tried to bully the Liberals out of politics, I looked after a “200 club” to raise funds for the ppc deposit. I have witnessed the highs and lows of election nights and have a lot of respect for how hard Lib Dem councillors worked to help constituents.

But it’s all over now. I stopped being a member a couple of years ago, I won’t be putting up any posters and, worse of all, I won’t be voting Lib Dem. There will not be a Lib Dem party after the next election; you have lost many of the young and, being a local government worker, I can see you will lose many voters in my area of work where once you were the party to trust. I went on strike on Thursday (Report, 11 July) despite being a one-parent family and having big bills to pay. I stood on the picket line then I marched through Cambridge in the rain and came home absolutely exhausted. There are many women who are taking the brunt of all the cuts. Jobs are being made more “efficient”, downgraded and changed so that the salary can be reduced and offered to anyone who needs a job. It’s a bad time, morale is low, the amount of work that is expected has increased and, what is worse, the Labour party will reap the benefits when voters go to the polls next year, despite Labour making a pigs ear of governing a few years ago.

I despise the Tories and all they stand for. This is your last chance to save the party: talk to the unions, walk away from the coalition, get back from the bankers what they have lost through greed and incompetence – and make me believe in you and the party again. Please!
Geraldine Savage
Chrishall, Essex 

In response to interest rates remaining unchanged at 0.5% for a 65th consecutive month (Report, 10 July), we strongly advocate a 0.25% rate rise in August, working towards Bank of England governor Mark Carney‘s “new norm” of 2.5%. The below-target consumer price inflation, 1.5% in May, gives the Bank the necessary leeway to act now. We advocate this approach as the sustained low interest rate is encouraging households and businesses to borrow to excess.

Britain’s household borrowing is at a record high of £1.44tn, equivalent to an average household debt of £54,629, on a background of a 2.2% fall in real wages a year. While we applaud the financial policy committee’s decision to limit the proportion of high loan-to-income mortgages and related affordability checks, we question whether this is enough to cool the market. Carney himself warned in April that the economy faced renewed dangers from excessive borrowing as encouraged by low interest rates.

We have been told that any future interest rate rises will be data-driven. A marked relapse in manufacturing output in May, when it fell 1.3% month on month, highlights that ongoing strong growth cannot be taken for granted and we recommend a rate increase at the next possible opportunity. The CEO of Lloyds Bank, António Horta-Osório, said at a recent event at Judge Business School that banks had a duty to give back to society. We would encourage the monetary policy committee to announce this rise on 7 August, helping to embrace Carney’s vision of banks contributing to the good of the people.
Dr Rav Seeruthun
Dr Ian Colwill
Cambridge

You report (Clooney row with Mail boils over, 12 July) that Daily Mail group blames its appalling record of professional code breaches on the “huge story volume on its website”. As Nick Davies showed in his book Flat Earth News, the Mail group was already by far the worst code-breacher in the British press in the 1990s – before the Mail Online website even existed. The Mail’s conduct is thus not a reflection of its story volume but of its abusive culture. Only a tiny minority of its targets are in a position to fight back in the way George Clooney has, but that same Mail culture continues to deny more vulnerable victims the modest means of redress recommended in the Leveson report.
Professor Brian Cathcart
Hacked Off

• Your editorial on the Royal Mail sell-off (12 July) asks how “to avoid a rerun the next time a public asset is sold”. Surely this is unnecessarily defeatist?
Francis Prideaux
London

• My World Cup cliche dream team (ITV fights on the beaches, 12 July): between the posts I go for get something on it and, in defence, it’s take a dive alongside clumsy challenge and inch-perfect pass. In the middle of the park, put too much on it is partnered with set-piece scenario. Playing in a wide role I’ve chosen work ethic and get up and down. Dropping into the hole is come to the party while, up front, it’s the strike force of rattle the woodwork and pop up at the back stick. We’ll get men behind the ball, park the bus, and only play football on the break – and, at this level, that will be going on all over the park, all afternoon.
Richard Walker
London

• If Liverpool are selling Luis Suárez to Barcelona (Sport, 12 July), can they be accused of incisor trading?
Peter Rawling
Bracknell, Berkshire

On the same day as a battered and beleaguered public sector took industrial action, a 53-year-old woman was murdered while working her shift on an acute mental health ward (Man arrested over stabbing death at mental health unit, 11 July). This item of news appeared in the Guardian, but was missing from most radio and television news.

During the years of this coalition government, public sector workers including NHS staff have seen their pay frozen and cut. At the same time the cuts that have been made to mental health (partly in order to balance the books of the overspent physical health part of the NHS) have destroyed years of dedicated work to improve standards within mental health units. Day services have been cut, crisis teams overwhelmed trying to cover shifts with fewer staff and an ever-increasing demand, and devastating cuts in the number of acute beds. As a result, acute wards are increasingly full of the more severely sick, with fewer staff and less occupational therapy, the threshold for beds on psychiatric intensive units has risen, and staff and service users face challenging, and sometimes highly dangerous, behaviour more often.

The NHS pension scheme is a good one and those of us who rely on it to live are aware of our good fortune, but we have earned every penny of it. If Sharon Wall, who lost her life on the day the prime minister sneered at the unions and those who took action, was in the NHS pension scheme, she would have paid a higher percentage of her salary towards her pension than MPs do towards theirs. For each year she worked, she would have received an 80th of her annual salary as pension; for MPs, it’s a 40th or a 50th. Their pension scheme, oddly enough, does not earn David Cameron‘s scorn, nor was it included in the savage changes to public-sector pensions. I wonder why.

Reports in the media of outlandish salaries for NHS bosses should make it clear that these are the salaries of those appointed to jobs on boards and clinical commissioning groups, those championed by the coalition’s secretaries of health. Operational managers and those working on the front line are on salaries set and agreed by Agenda for Change, which have been frozen and effectively cut for four years. They are not over-generous for staff who face daily verbal abuse, physical threats and, as in Sharon Wall’s case, murder. Teachers, fireman and others about whom the government makes facile and derogatory statements when they use their mandated right to take industrial action face similar risks every day.
Jane Scott
London

• There have been consultations between the Joint Industry Board and Unite on pay increases and terms for electricians. The offer on the table is 2% this year and 3% for next year, as long as the members accept a new unskilled grade called “entrant”. This grade will be a minimum-rate position open for two years, after which the operative will be offered employment as an electrical labourer, apprentice or adult trainee, or made redundant. While on this grade, they will be expected to carry out some of the so-called semi-skilled work now carried out by electricians. This will result in far fewer electricians being employed and more work carried out by unskilled employees.

The union members who attended the consultation rejected this but agreed that it should go to all JIB-registered union members to vote on in a postal ballot. The ballot is due later this month and all ballot papers should have now been delivered. On my site in Crawley we have 17 electricians who are members of both the JIB and Unite, and none of us have received ballot papers. My concern is that the JIB will say a non vote will be considered as accepting the offer and any further action will be deemed to be undemocratic and illegal.
Mike Eason
Tunbridge Wells, Kent

• The themes of striking public-sector unions and tax-dodging companies (Reports, 10 July) nicely summarise a faultline in the British economy. The indicators suggest that the economy is picking up but the mass of people are not feeling any different – wages down, cost of living up.

This is because improvements in the economy do not get passed on to the workers, but instead go directly to the bosses, who ship their money offshore to avoid tax.

The result of this unjust arrangement is a society where a few billionaires corner the mass of wealth, while more than a million go to food banks.

Powerful and effective trade unions are one way to rectify this situation. Unions bring a greater amount of equality to our society. People working in unionised workplaces are better paid and have better conditions of work. Only by setting trade unions free can the balance be restored in society so that more of the wealth flows to the many than to the few. The idea that further restricting trade union activities has any value may play well in the Tory shires but, in terms of creating a working and economic system, it is total bunkum.
Paul Donovan
London

• The government wants to change legislation such that a member who does not vote is assumed to be against the motion. Surely the union then just has to change the question asking members if they do not wish to strike. Then a member who does not vote will be assumed to be in favour of strike action.
Philip Kenley
London

Independent:

Boyd Tonkin’s superb coda to your impressive series “A History of the Great War in 100 Moments” (12 July) rightly mentions the victims that the war was to claim after it ended.

One of these was the German Centre Party politician Matthias Erzberger, whom Tonkin includes specifically for his unenviable role in leading the German delegation at the armistice negotiations.

This remarkable but neglected figure, who by 1917 had become a prominent advocate of a negotiated end to the war, is regarded as one of the founders of the postwar German republic. He also became the target of a hate campaign by the far right in the years immediately after the war ended and was assassinated by two naval officers acting as political contract killers for the organisation that later also organised the murder of the Weimar Republic foreign minister Walter Rathenau.

Erzberger’s two assassins were beneficiaries of an unconstitutional amnesty brought in by the Nazi government in 1933, but were eventually imprisoned after the Second World War. One of the two, Heinrich Tillessen, who became consumed by remorse for Erzberger’s assassination, was eventually pardoned in 1958 (Erzberger’s widow had spoken in favour of this).

It is to be hoped that your series, which commendably included German perspectives on the war and important German figures such as Matthias Erzberger, has opened windows for your readers on to the fascinating panorama of German history in the early 20th century. This would be a fitting outcome of your centenary commemoration of the beginning of the First World War.

David Head

Navenby, Lincolnshire

 

“Would you kill a single person to save the lives of hundreds of other people?” is an old philosophical and moral question. What then to make of the decision taken by Allied generals on  8 November 1918 to postpone the armistice until the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month? During this period 6,750 soldiers were slaughtered, 2,738 of them between 5.12am (the time of the signing of the documents of the armistice) and 11am on the 11th.

With a single command these lives could have been saved. Of all the terrible, despicable acts of the war, this final act stands head and shoulders above all others as the most egregious, callous and heinous single act.

It exposes the cant of warmongering politicians, generals and majors that the lives of our soldiers are of paramount concern to them; very obviously they are not. Apologists for warmongers will no doubt point out that this happened a long time ago, and claim that things have since changed. But look at our recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and tell me that, once again, the lives of ordinary soldiers haven’t been sacrificed to further the personal ambitions of the political and officer classes. We can be proud of the soldiers who fought for us in wars, but should be sickened and appalled by the politicians and officers who sent them to their deaths.

These articles should be required reading for anyone contemplating a life in the armed forces. I suspect they would persuade many to pursue an alternative  career path.

Barry Richards

Cardiff

 

I remember three of my grandparents with affection but I was never to meet the fourth, my mother’s father, Arthur Cannon.

He taught, for many years, the two senior classes of a secondary school in Sheffield. When the First World War broke out, many of the boys he had taught went to fight for their country, and many of them never returned.

My grandfather looked each week at the lists of those killed – these bright, promising pupils he had so enjoyed teaching. Understandably he lapsed into a deep and protracted depression. There were no anti-depressants and no psychiatrists to help him.

In 1918 his 10-year-old son, Roy, was killed by falling from a wall and fracturing his skull. My grandfather blamed himself for his son’s death. But I think it is more likely that this was illogical guilt – a well-known symptom of certain kinds of depression.

In 1922 my grandfather visited his brother – a fruit farmer in Huntingdon – and hanged himself in a barn.

I think of him with sadness as a casualty of war.

Joan E Allen

Stockport

 

 “A History of the Great War in 100 Moments” has been a relentlessly poignant reminder of the futility of human conflict embodied in this catastrophe. Boyd Tonkin’s concluding contribution is almost too upsetting to read, amplifying as it does the events of the final six hours of warfare and the impact on people involved in events.

This series should be required reading for our schoolchildren.

David Bracey

Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire

Health hazards of wearing the niqab

Niqab wearing is unacceptable for more reasons than those cited by Paula Jones (letter, 11 July). It is a health hazard;

blocking skin from natural sunlight deprives the body of vitamin D. Forcing niqabs on to young schoolgirls, for whom vitamin D is important for growth, is child abuse. Pregnant women wearing niqabs are abusing their unborn children. The Victorian disease of rickets, caused by vitamin D deficiency, is returning. In February this year, a (non-Muslim) couple were jailed for the manslaughter of their five-month-old son, who died from acute rickets because they rejected medical advice on religious grounds.

David Crawford

Bromley, Kent

On the subject of concealment: when the correspondence on the niqab started, by a nice chance the same issue of The Independent carried a feature on the sun-shade fetish. Though I am not paranoid, walking the high street and encountering the many who now sport them whatever the weather, it’s natural to wonder if you are being scrutised incognito by those concealed eyes.

This seems of minor import until, in a pub garden on a hot day, you see a couple  – both with eyes blacked out – with a baby unable to see its parents’ eyes. If anyone asks what damage it does, I’d say this was a crime; yet no one in the public domain has so far questioned it.

David Kuhrt

Forest Row, East Sussex

 

Personally, I find people deliberately exposing their underwear more offensive than people covering their faces. In the interests of “observing prevailing social norms” may we expect timely legislation to address this issue?

Edmund Tierney

London N6

 

The received wisdom among your columnists and correspondents seems to be that the wearing of the niqab is all about female inferiority and subjugation.

Does it not also imply that all men are potential sexual predators, from whom women need to be protected? As a mother of three sons, I find this equally as disturbing.

Sue Holder

Aberaeron, Ceredigion

 

Russian donations to the Tory party

The revelation of the huge donations to the Tory party coffers by New Century Media (report, 4 July), raises the question of what influence the oligarchs have on British government policy towards the imposition of sanctions on Russia? At present, the imposed sanctions have been quite limited and hardly touched Putin or the oligarchs.

As Putin and his rich friends disregard human rights, invade and annexe Ukrainian territory, rewrite post-Second World War borders, and support terrorist action, the Conservatives seem quite happy to take Russian money.

What price the lives of Ukrainian and ethnic Russian civilians and European stability in Putin’s mad power game? The answer, it seems, is whatever fills the Conservatives’ election collection box.

R Suchyj

Halifax

A Scotland free of incompetence?

Your editorial “A misty future” (11 July), about Scotland’s future post-referendum, made me laugh out loud. To quote: “It may be that a succession of brilliantly wise ministries creates an economy that is the envy of the developed world. On the other hand, the people of Scotland might elect a series of incompetents.”

Very true, seeing that the UK as a whole is currently suffering from the incompetents it elected in 2010. Perhaps it is that incompetence the Scots are seeking independence from.

Lesley Docksey

Buckland Newton, Dorset

House arrest would suffice for harris

I hold no brief for the actions of Rolf Harris but vindictive media treatment and claims that a six-year sentence for an 84-year-old is too lenient are in themselves alarming (report, 7 July). The fact is that when these crimes were committed, an offender was not punished in this way and we are locking away a growing number of infirm, confused old men.

Elsewhere in Europe sex offenders over 70 are given house arrest and a similar sentence is surely more appropriate for geriatrics who clearly no longer pose a threat to anyone.

Rev Dr John Cameron

St Andrews

Times:

Is the Archbishop of Canterbury right to oppose Lord Falconer of Thoroton’s Bill?

Sir, Many who oppose the introduction of assisted suicide in the UK do so on grounds of public safety. Lord Falconer of Thoroton and his supporters point to Washington State, where assisted suicide is legal, as a model to follow. Yet the Washington State Department of Health’s annual report on its “Death with Dignity Act” revealed that 61 per cent of those who received lethal drugs in Washington in 2013 reported “feeling a burden on family, friends and care-givers”.

Those who feel a burden in society are vulnerable and often dependent upon those around them to get by. The evidence from Washington suggests that such people may feel a pressure or duty to end their lives if the Falconer Bill were to be passed. The mark of a healthy society is how it treats those who have no one to speak up for them.

We must not enact laws which will endanger the lives of people in vulnerable situations.

Baroness Campbell of Surbiton; Baroness Grey-Thompson; Lord Carlile of Berriew, QC; Baroness Finlay of Llandaff; Baroness Hollins; Baroness Cumberlege; Baroness O’Cathain; David Blunkett, MP; Glenda Jackson, MP; Glyn Davies, MP; Julian Brazier, MP; David Burrowes, MP; Jim Dobbin, MP

Sir, In his article the Archbishop of Canterbury rightly emphasises that compassion, when applied to a particular case, severely limits and even distorts its meaning (“Helping people to die is not truly compassionate”, Opinion, July 12). As no one is an island, the impact of a decision to end a life has a ripple effect far beyond those intimately involved in a particular case. Although we live in an age that emphasises and encourages the rights of the individual, we too easily lose sight of how the actions of each individual impact within a broader set of communities.

Those of us involved in hospice care are only too familiar with the ambiguity of personal choice when set within the community of a family. It is not uncommon for a patient to wish to be as alert as possible for visitors — only to have family members, disturbed by agitation in their loved one, urge the patient to request sedation.

Patients who have declined sedation prior to visitors sometimes request sedation once the visit is over. In many cases this will be the choice the patient makes, to be able to enjoy the visit as fully as possible. But in cases where family members have suggested higher levels of sedation, how does the patient judge whether the suggestion is for his or her benefit or for the family’s benefit? And if the latter, how does anyone judge whether it is out of compassion for the patient or for some much darker reason?

We legislate to give choice to end life at our peril.

The Rev Canon Peter Holliday

Chief executive, St Giles Hospice, Lichfield, Staffs

Sir, In representing his version of the arguments in favour of assisted dying, the Archbishop of Canterbury presents a simplistic and anachronistic summary, in essence a false dichotomy. He supports his case by defining “compassion” in a way that many will find both limited and narrow, and uses this to deny that those in favour of assisted dying are compassionate. Finally, he raises the irrelevant hare of the disabled and elderly being pressurised to die by their own hand, the “slippery slope” argument. This has been comprehensively refuted, both in the proposed Bill and in countries where assisted dying is legal.

The Bill is not the “sword of Damocles” that he emotively describes, but the choice for the dying to take control of their own destiny. In changing his mind, perhaps his predecessor but one, Lord Carey of Clifton (report July 12), has listened more compassionately to his flock.

Tim Howard

Corfe Mullen, Dorset

Sir, Archbishop Welby argues that legalising assisted dying would threaten society’s care for the old and ill who want to live. This does not follow. The evidence is clear: countries that have legalised assisted dying also care for their old people. For example, the Euro Health Consumer Index shows that the Dutch spend more per capita on long-term geriatric care, particularly of the over 75s, than any other country.

It is with deep regret that I see the Church of England coming down yet again on the wrong side of a key moral issue.

The Rev Professor Paul Badham

University of Wales, Trinity St David

Sir, Archbishop Welby wants to treat individuals who want to end their lives as just a means to protect others, not as an end in themselves.

We are individuals who should have a say in how our lives end. Society does not address the problem of road deaths by banning driving. Assisted suicide objectors would be better served identifying procedures that prevent the vulnerable being pressurised against their will rather than insisting on a “prohibit all” approach.

David Clark

Andover, Hants

Sir, We have been running a 20-year study on brown hares (letter, July 11) on our research farm in Leicestershire. The results are compelling. We created a range of habitats and controlled foxes; in response hare numbers increased more than tenfold from 1992 to 2000. Foxes can prey on leverets to such an extent that a fox family can eat the entire local population. Once we stopped controlling fox numbers the population of hares dropped to almost zero, showing that good habitat alone is insufficient to maintain numbers to herald recovery.

Dr Alastair Leake
Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

Sir, To those who avoid paying tax legally but not morally you might add those who buy books on Amazon rather than at a bookshop.

Peter and Eleanor Davies
Linghams Booksellers

Heswall, Wirral

Sir, John Bretherton (July 10) suggests that Daniel Finkelstein got it wrong by predicting that Brazil had a 79.8 per cent chance of prevailing. To call this an error is to misunderstand the nature of probability. In fact he also predicted a 20.2 per cent chance (ie, about 1 in 5) of losing. We have only been able to test this hypothesis once.

Perhaps if there had been four more encounters against Germany under similar circumstances, Brazil would have won on each occasion and Daniel Finkelstein’s prediction would have been proved correct. Professor Simon Watts New Malden, Surrey

Sir, Mr Schollick’s observation (July 12), that both football World Cup finalists were countries led by a woman, does not take into account that this country has been led by an outstanding woman since 1953.

Nigel A Brassard
London W1

Sir, I wonder if Julian Pettifer (letter, July 12) has enjoyed weeks of sport, eg, the football World Cup and Wimbledon? I dislike sport apart from horseracing and Grand Prix racing, so to have cookery or gardening programmes is a joy to me. May I suggest that there are other channels to watch, or that he buys an iPad; my husband and I can be in the same room but can separately watch the programmes that interest us, either live or as downloads. I realise that Mr Pettifer has decades of broadcasting experience behind him, but if there is really nothing to interest him perhaps he should use the “off” switch and read a book.

Mrs Lesley Charnock

Long Crendon, Bucks

Surely, given the sum raised by the auction, there was no need to sell the Syon Aphrodite?

Sir, The sale of the Syon Aphrodite by the Duke of Northumberland — almost certainly to an overseas buyer — is a tragic loss to the nation’s heritage and compromises one of Robert Adam’s finest country house interiors at Syon House (July 11).

The sale of all the items raised £32 million in total — £20 million more than the sum reportedly needed to pay for flood repairs on the Northumberland estate. Hence, could the statue not have been spared?

Andrew Clegg

Leatherhead, Surrey

Telegraph:

SIR – The Labour governments under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were the inspiration behind the excessively high salaries and pensions for public sector workers, the NHS being the biggest public-sector employer (Letters, July 6).

They reasoned that if they paid their natural constituency of union members large sums then they in turn would be rewarded with their votes. And how better to do this than to set up the target culture that needed even more managers to analyse and report on target achievements?

Needless to say, none of this improved clinical services.

Robin Humphreys
Exmouth, Devon

SIR – Whatever form of NHS reorganisation is carried out, short of privatisation of the supply of its services, it will never satisfy demand nor provide the highest level of customer satisfaction at the lowest cost.

Why? First, It is impossible to manage over one million employees efficiently. Secondly, if a service is provided for free, demand for it will never be satisfied. And thirdly, if a supplier knows that demand for its services is inelastic and it has no competitors, it will have no incentive to keep its customers happy, reduce its costs or improve its services, however many “targets” are set by the Government.

Peter Rusby
Stockbridge, Hampshire

SIR – It has become increasingly clear that the skillset required to get these highly paid jobs in the public sector is not the same as that which is required to actually do these jobs. This is bound to favour those motivated by greed rather than competent people motivated by altruism and with a genuine commitment to providing high-quality services in the public interest.

Professor Derek Pheby
Harnham, Wiltshire

Protecting barmen

SIR – We urge Peers to support a House of Lords amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, promoted by Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, that will introduce a specific offence of assaulting a worker selling alcohol, making such an assault an offence in its own right.

Under licensing laws, staff must prevent under-age purchases and refuse sales to customers who have already had too much to drink. This can often lead to violence, threats and abuse against the worker.

We want Parliament to provide a deterrent to the minority of individuals who damage the reputation of the pub, off-licence and hospitality trade and have no respect for the hard-working people who serve them.

Parliament has placed a duty on these workers to enforce and police the laws they pass, so it is only right they also provide the additional protection needed to help keep those workers safe.

John Hannett
General Secretary, Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers
Stephen Baker
Chairman, National Pubwatch
Miles Beale
Chief Executive, Wine and Spirit Trade Association
Nick Grant
Retail of Alcohol Standards Group
James Lowman
Chief Executive, Association of Convenience Stores

Immigration policy

SIR – You refer to possible elements of a renegotiation of EU immigration into Britain.

The public’s requirement is simple: that no preference is given to EU citizens over those from the rest of the world; and that the Government limits the overall numbers appropriately, with proficiency in English being a key qualification.

The sort of short-term fudges beloved of politicians and civil servants would be a betrayal. Economic purists will argue that a single market requires free movement of people, but they also argued that it required a common currency. Our position on immigration should mirror our position on currency.

Robert Smart
Eastbourne, West Sussex

Victorian HS3

SIR – With reference to Lord Heseltine’s article it is worth mentioning that our Victorian forefathers knew about the need for a railway line connecting the east and west coasts of northern England.

Bradshaw’s Handbook for 1863 gives details of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway, which crossed the Pennines by the Woodhead Tunnel (2.94 miles long). It had a connection to Liverpool, and reached the Humber at Grimsby.

In the Fifties, the line was electrified between Manchester and Sheffield, but was a casualty of the Beeching Plan in the Sixties.

Valentine Ramsey
Sherborne, Dorset

Henley sportsmanship

SIR – Hillier Wise (Letters, July 6) is right that the Henley Royal Regatta is the perfect English setting. However, when I was there this year I was surprised and saddened to see a victorious crew row off, after finishing, to the landing stage without so much as a cheer for their opponents. I hope that coaches would encourage their crews to show respect to their opponents, who will be bitterly disappointed to lose. The least they can expect is a cheer from the winners.

Philip Gossage
Lymington, Hampshire

Conservative cuisine

SIR – Michel Roux makes a very interesting observation about French cuisine (Letters, June 29). On our recent holiday in the Languedoc, we were bemoaning the fact that we have rarely had an enjoyable meal in France over the last few years, and that food in Britain is so much more interesting and varied.

The French are too conservative about their food. They hate change, so the same old stuff is served up in their restaurants again and again.

Michele Platman
Harborne, Staffordshire

Online banking will exclude the elderly

SIR – The head of the British Banking Association’s article on why we should celebrate the move towards online and mobile banking and the diminishing need for bank branches omits a crucial point.

A proportion of the population is now, and always will be, unable to bank online or via their mobile phone. They risk being excluded from day-to-day banking and paying bills – an essential part of life. Twenty one per cent of retired people have limited dexterity, making it hard to use IT, while five million over-65s have never been online.

Technological innovation can make life easier for many people but it is incumbent on the banking industry to ensure that before it closes branches, it comes up with an easily accessible way for those who can’t bank digitally to access the services on which we all depend.

Caroline Abrahams
Charity Director, Age UK
London WC1

Justifying paedophila

SIR – I feel sick after reading about the academics justifying the perversions of paedophiles.

Paedophiles should not equate children’s seeming acquiescence with enjoyment. Children nearly always do what they are told by adults. Paedophiles are sexually revolting to children, and permanently damage them by their actions.

Jenny Cobb
Five Ashes, East Sussex

SIR – I was shocked and angry to read the claim that a sizeable minority of my fellow males would like to have sex with children, and that paedophilia is natural and normal. Who are these so-called experts who want to brainwash the majority?

I have mixed with males at school, in the Armed Forces and workplace and I have never heard any talk of having sex with children or the desire to do so.

Michael Clemson
Horsmonden, Kent

Manners: a tall order

SIR – While I do not totally agree with John Bercow, who compares references to his height with homophobic and racist slurs, he has a point.

I am over 6ft 7in tall. Among the crass questions I get asked, such as “What’s the weather like up there?”, there are occasional witticisms. However, I wonder why some people feel that it is appropriate to ask how tall I am when it would be considered impolite to ask the bra size of a busty woman, the weight of a fat person or indeed, the height of a dwarf.

Clifford Baxter
Wareham, Dorset

SIR – Reading about the closure of Mayfair’s Chalet restaurant (People, June 29) brought back fond memories of many lunch hours spent there in the Sixties with my then girlfriend, now wife of 45 years, when we both worked in Grosvenor Street.

The Chalet was a traditional Italian restaurant, serving pasta dishes, meatballs and escalope Milanese alongside the famed chicken Kiev, which in those days seemed rather exotic. This was long before the advent of pizza in this country and the vast choice of global cuisines on offer today.

It was certainly a fantastic place for people-watching, and what a thrill it was, one lunchtime, when the original Rolling Stones breezed in – possibly after recording at the nearby Savile Row studios.

Alas, as there wasn’t a table available for five, they promptly breezed out again.

Leslie Kendall
Northwood, Middlesex

SIR – “Complacency” is hardly the word to describe the resignation, foreboding and indignation with which most British people regard the prospect of further Islamist terror in their midst (Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Comment, July 6).

Such complacency as does exist is entirely on Sir Malcolm’s side. He dismisses with a perfunctory “terrible” the slaughter last year of an off-duty British soldier in full daylight in a London street and tells us that “apart from” this there have been no successful outrages since an airliner with over 200 people on board was destroyed in mid-air in 1988 and 50-odd souls were blown to smithereens on the London underground.

He slides over the attempt by Islamists to launch a follow-up campaign against public transport in July 2005; over the Islamic terrorists arrested in north London a few years back for plotting attacks with nerve gas, and those caught shortly afterwards preparing hydrogen peroxide bombs in a London council flat; over the letter bomb campaign of 2007; over the plot the same year to behead a British soldier; the attack on Glasgow Airport by a group of Muslims including a doctor; an attempted bombing in Exeter; a plot in 2012 to bomb a political rally in Yorkshire; not to mention all the other failed and aborted attempts and those that we may never be allowed to hear about.

The British people can’t win. If they express justified anger towards the fanatics and those who have inflicted them upon our society, they are termed “racist” and “alarmist”; if they lapse into despair, they are called “complacent”.

Martin R Maloney
London N3

SIR – We are not complacent. We are just apathetic after years of bad governments that won’t even deport known terrorists.

Brian Gilbert
Hampton, Middlesex

SIR – Could we have some guidance from Sir Malcolm – or MI5 or MI6 – on what we are supposed to do? Challenge anyone who looks at all suspicious? Report the rantings of radical imams?

We are all very mindful that terrorists may try to harm us.

Ron Kirby
Dorchester, Dorset

SIR – It is a bit rich for Sir Malcolm Rifkind to accuse the British public of being complacent about terror threats.

The policy of mass immigration adopted by successive governments, the severe reduction in border controls and a wishy-washy approach to “multiculturalism” must surely be significant factors in the creation of the current situation.

Den Beves
Llanbrynmair, Montgomeryshire

SIR – It’s not the public that is complacent, it’s the Government.

We’ve been telling it not to let British jihadists back into the country for months.

Trevor Norris
Ross on Wye, Herefordshire

SIR – Matthew d’Ancona is right; the government and security services have a complex and difficult task protecting us from the threat of Islamist fanatics.

However, he is wrong to regard last year’s Commons vote against direct intervention in Syria as “a shameful moment”. There is no evidence to suggest that air strikes or ground attacks by British forces would have improved the situation.

It was virtually impossible for Britain to be certain that the eventual replacement for the Assad regime would have been any better for the people of Syria, or that it would serve British interests. What is almost certain is that military intervention would have served as a recruiting sergeant for even more young, impressionable, British Muslims. Our role in such conflicts must be restricted to providing the maximum humanitarian aid for the victims and being ready to act as mediators if asked to do so.

The Commons vote was a triumph for democracy over an overweening, misguided executive; this is exactly what MPs are for.

John Waine
Nuneaton, Warwickshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – John A Murphy (“Why we should be wary of Sinn Féin in government”, Opinion & Analysis, July 9th) is to be commended for trying to open our eyes to the true nature of the current Sinn Féin.

There are clearly people who see it as just another normal political party, and are prepared to vote for it as if it were one. That is their privilege. The trouble is that is not how those in control of its heart see it.

At its centre, Sinn Féin is akin to a cult – that is, it has a millenarian goal (Irish political unity) which overrides everything else; a use of language which is designed to support that goal; a charismatic leadership with a satisfyingly sexy whiff of sulphur about it; a control-freakery that does not allow its acolytes to stray off-message; a view of the world that is at odds with reality; and so on.

If people who vote for Sinn Féin aren’t worried about this, then they should be. – Yours, etc,

IAN d’ALTON,

Rathasker Heights,

Naas,

Co Kildare.

Sir, – John A Murphy’s warning that Sinn Féin’s prospective coalition partners need to closely examine “features of the organisation” fits in neatly with the increasingly hysterical reaction from Labour and Fianna Fáil to Sinn Féin’s electoral success; the more votes Sinn Féin gets, the more alarmed is the response of the party’s political rivals. They raise the spectre of a violent past – by which they mean, exclusively, republican violence, but clearly it is the democratic future that most worries them. There is a great degree of cynicism behind all that emotive language.

Reading Prof Murphy’s article is like stepping back to the 1980s, when ideological rivals simply flung what ever brickbat came to hand at each other. It’s all about the mood music, vague hints that there is something sinister about Sinn Féin as it stands and that therefore it is not ready for government (south of the border that is).

We have heard similar warnings from Joan Burton, who declared that, despite the fact that it is in government in Northern Ireland with the DUP, Sinn Féin is still not ready for “true democracy”.

This was after her party received a drubbing at the polls. Is this negative politics all Labour has to offer?

The old guard, including Pat Rabbitte and Ruairí Quinn, built careers snarling at Fianna Fáil, blaming that party for Labour’s failure to win working class support; will the next Labour generation do the same, except with Sinn Féin as the bête noire? – Yours, etc,

JOE WALSH,

Monastery Heath Avenue,

Clondalkin,

Dublin 22.

Sir, – In both your profile of UCD’s new president Prof Andrew Deeks (“In terms of world profile, UCD is punching below its weight”, July 5th) and a recent editorial (July 8th), you refer to the “UK funding model” for higher education.

There is, in fact, no such thing, education being one of the few areas devolved to the parliaments and assemblies. The model being referred to is primarily that of England, which has some of the most unaffordable fee levels in the world. Yes, students have loans, but such a system effectively establishes debt as one of the “graduate attributes” of those for whom there is little choice should they seek an education.

Levels of default, in the longer term, in such systems need also to be factored in and underwritten. These may well be attractive models to university managers in that the problem of payment is outsourced to a loans company, although in every country where fees and loans are introduced, the state’s more general contribution rapidly declines, threatening the viability of subjects, departments and even institutions.

This approach is in stark contrast to the situation in Scotland, which is still (at least until September) part of the UK. There, on abolishing the “fee by another name” that was implemented by a previous Labour-LibDem coalition, the first minister stated that those who live in Scotland will have to wait “until the rocks melt with the Sun” before they’d pay fees for such a fundamental public good.

That small country, incidentally, has a number of universities in the top 100 or 200 in all the ranking systems. Far from the fees-plus-loans systems of England or Australia, higher education being paid for through a proper, progressive income tax system is a more common European approach and can deliver where there is the political will to regard education as an investment rather than a burden. – Yours, etc,

IAIN MacLAREN,

Knockferry,

Rosscahill,

Co Galway.

Sir, – Will The Irish Times now be publishing front-page photographs of women and children killed in the latest Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip? – Yours, etc,

JOHN TOBIN,

Tritonville Road,

Sandymount,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – Allow me to respond to Dominic Carroll (July 11th), when he writes: “it’s ludicrous to equate the deadly Israeli military offensive with the largely ineffective Hamas campaign”.

I would say that it doesn’t matter whether a missile came from a “deadly” or “ineffective” campaign, you are wounded or dead and not going to question the effectiveness of a bomb or otherwise. Indiscriminate aerial bombardment is nothing short of criminal, full stop. I agree with that opinion, which leaves no room for excuses one way or the other. – Yours, etc,

MONICA MULLER,

Rossport,

South Ballina,

Co Mayo.

Sir, – I echo the sentiments of Sr Stanislaus Kennedy (July 13th ) in her hope that Joan Burton’s leadership will influence the Government’s policy on homelessness.

In addition to this, may I suggest to the Tánaiste a radical budget proposal? Reduce the top rate of VAT (which is a sales tax) from 23 per cent to 10 per cent. Yes, the Minister for Finance would be nervous (but popular); yes, the Department of Finance would not welcome such risk-taking with their income stream and would probably object. However, the knock-on effect would be powerful – more disposable income for all would result in an increase in demand across multiple sectors.

This in turn would mean more staff being employed, with the happy result of a reduction in the Live Register.

Such an adjustment to this punitively high VAT rate could make the difference from being able to pay your electricity bill to, at the other end of the scale, being able to go for both the black and the brown Manolos. – Yours, etc,

ALISON HACKETT,

Dún Laoghaire,

Sir, – As the date of the 100th anniversary of the opening shots of the first World War draws closer, the barrage of books, articles, etc, will no doubt increase, while numerous exhibitions will be mounted. Does it ever occur to the people involved that all this “derring-do” resulted in the deaths of countless Germans, Bulgarians, Turks, Austrians and Hungarians, not to mention the lesser-known nationalities that comprised the Austro-Hungarian empire? All of those were people, whom to paraphrase Churchill slightly, “never laid a violent hand upon us”, which is more than can be said for the army for which these Irishmen fought. – Yours, etc,

TOM McCLELLAND,

Elton Court,

Leixlip,

Co Kildare.

Sir, – Mullingar Pewter is – or was – famous in Ireland and throughout the western world for its reproductions of images from the Book of Kells on goblets. I owned a number of them, but over the course of 30 years gave them all away. My favourites were the pewter goblets decorated with the symbols of the four Christian evangelists.

Last month I saw a new set of these goblets. I was at Dublin Airport, and decided to buy two of them: Matthew (the man) and Mark (the lion). I brought them to a clerk, who escorted me to the shop’s counter. She produced two boxes – “the boy”, she said, and “the bird”.

No, I explained, those are the symbols for St Mark and St Matthew – and neither of them is a boy or a bird. And the Book of Kells? No, these goblets were made in Mullingar, she said, not in Kells.

I have been a regular and frequent visitor to Ireland since my first year in Dublin in 1961-62. Ireland was Ireland then. Most of Ireland is now, it seems, a part of the loud chain-store commerce that we call western civilisation. That’s not for me. I don’t want to walk down the vulgar, noisy Grafton Street, or the cultural embarrassment called O’Connell Street.

If I come to Ireland again, I want to be dropped somewhere in west Donegal, up near Errigal, or out on the Kilmurvey end of Inishmore. Or maybe somewhere in Mayo or in Connemara.

Or should I just give up, and not come back? Then I can try to remember when Ireland wasn’t a shopping mall, full of generic clerks selling generic world goods and generic world souvenirs – boys and birds on genuine Irish pewter cups, and Irish T-shirts made in Singapore. – Yours, etc,

Prof BERT G HORNBACK,

Karcherstrasse,

Saarbrucken, Germany.

Sir, – Cían Carlin is mistaken in his letter (July 10th) about the descriptive name of the Irish sovereign state. Article 4 of the Constitution states: “The name of the State is Éire, or in the English language, Ireland.” On December 21st , 1948, the Oireachtas enacted the Republic of Ireland Act 1948 (Number 22 of 1948). Section 2 of that Act shows: “It is hereby declared that the description of the State shall be the Republic of Ireland”. It was the shortest Act passed by the Oireachtas. This was accepted by the British government and duly recognised when the Westminster parliament passed the Ireland Act 1949 in April that year. King George VI sent a gracious letter of congratulation to President Sean T O’Kelly. At the same time Ireland was excluded from the Commonwealth for being, in law, a republic. That was no loss. – Yours, etc,

GERARD CARTON,

Bar End Road,

Winchester,

Hampshire, England.

Sir, – The Department of Agriculture’s plan to have 12,000 badgers killed over the next two years as part of an anti-bovine TB initiative is monstrous. An estimated 100,000 of these shy, nocturnal creatures have already been snared and shot in Ireland in the course of successive department-sponsored culling programmes, and still the disease continues to afflict farms nationwide, with the badger killing to date failing to make even a dent in the incidence of bovine TB.

Instead of targeting the badger, which is supposedly protected under the 1976 Wildlife Act and a Council of Europe convention, I suggest the department focus its energies on the search for a badger vaccine against the disease that would remove the broc’s alleged threat to Ireland’s agricultural sector.

Snaring is cruel to badgers. Each animal caught has to wait, struggling to break free from the stranglehold, for the arrival of someone contracted by the department to end its life with a rifle shot.

That’s an ordeal no wild animal should have to endure, but there is another reason why the snaring of badgers should not even be contemplated, the prevalence in the countryside of organised badger baiting. Unscrupulous people set pairs of dogs on captive badgers until either the badger is ripped to pieces or one or both of the dogs has been mauled to death by the terrified creature.

The badger is being made to serve as a scapegoat for the department’s failure to tackle bovine TB and to devote adequate resources to the quest for a vaccine. It’s time for everyone who values our wonderful wildlife heritage to say no to a badger cull! – Yours, etc,

JOHN FITZGERALD,

Lower Coyne Street,

Callan, Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – There appears to be a general loosening of State finances, with reversals on certain savings. We are not nearly anywhere out of the woods economically. The country is borrowing €12.5 billion a year, or €34 million a day, just to tick over and is borrowing to repay borrowings. – Yours, etc,

TIM BRACKEN.

Blarney Street, Cork.

Irish Independent:

My thanks to Patricia R Moynihan (Letters, July 11) for reading and responding to my letter of July 9.

I have been a political admirer of Joan Burton for a long time. Her overwhelming victory in the leadership contest shows in what high regard she is held by the remaining active members of the Labour Party.

But do they (and even the highly intelligent Ms Burton herself) grasp what has been happening inside the skulls of our people – and particularly the skulls of those who ‘should’ have voted Labour in May’s elections?

Since 2008, a substantial number of us ordinary Irish citizens have been working very hard to understand what went so terribly wrong with the Irish Economic Miracle (aka ‘Celtic Tiger’). And why, why, why?

What seems to have been entirely missed by the political elite (to the accompaniment of condescending homilies), is that, far from being ignorant peasants and proletarians, many of us have made the necessary intellectual leap. In a crude simplification: a deeply flawed global socio-economic system crashed headlong into good old Irish native greed, the collapse even of secular values.

But has a single member of the Labour parliamentary party identified themselves with such a view? Joan did not have to throw a verbal bomb, let alone walk out of government. But there was not one syllable that indicated that she understood the fundamental problem in our politics.

What worries me particularly about Ms Burton’s Labour is that there is apparently no strategic understanding that though our collective future rests very much on ‘local’, ie ‘Irish’, policy and governance, all that depends utterly, for this tiny, open economy, on what happens (or does not happen) within the European Union. Let alone the rest of this shrinking planet.

MAURICE O’CONNELL

TRALEE, CO KERRY

A thankless job

I happened to be in Dublin last week, and on the same day, not far from Leinster House, I saw Michael Noonan and Taoiseach Enda Kenny; they were not together but in coming and going in the area, I caught a glimpse of them.

It occurred to me that heavy indeed is the head that wears the crown. I can appreciate that both were under stress as it was the week of the reshuffle.

I have never been a member of a political party – though like everyone else in the country I take a keen interest in what’s going on.

Seeing these two men evidently tired and battered by the waves in their battle to turn back the tide of austerity, I was struck by their integrity.

I read repeatedly about the low regard we have for those who seek and hold public office, and no matter what they do, you will hear the refrain: “sure aren’t they well paid for it?”.

Perhaps. But Michael Noonan has been bravely doing his job while fighting serious illness. He might have taken leave but he stuck to his task instead.

Mr Kenny has doggedly attempted to get the green shoots back in the economic wasteland that he was left by the last shower. His reward has been a chorus of abuse.

It has been a tough and utterly thankless task.

Evidently neither man is in it for gratitude or appreciation; they believe in what they are doing.

They are human and they have made personal sacrifices, and I think their efforts should be saluted, along with the efforts of many other sincere and honest public servants who believe in what they do.

D O’BRIEN

DALKEY, CO DUBLIN

Hearing God’s call

It is Catholic doctrine that baptism gives each one of us a special charism for one’s vocation in life. The charism is permanent; it influences us in making the choice and living it out.

Speaking from my own experience, I made the wrong choice. I wanted to be a priest, but I had no desire to live a celibate life. I was repeatedly assured, over a period of years, that God would give me the grace to be celibate, if I prayed for it. It was only when I was teaching theology in the Philippines during Vatican II, that I gradually became convinced that I had no charism to be a celibate.

I still feel the call to the ministry, but I have always wanted to get married. I have been harping on this for 40 years now, and am glad that the subject of the charisms has at long last come to the fore.

Why could a woman not have a charism for the priestly ministry? St Paul was way ahead of the teaching church today on the charisms. We need them now as never before. If God calls, the church must answer.

SEAN MCELGUNN

ADDRESS WITH EDITOR

TESTING TIMES IN EDUCATION

Micheal O Fearghail (Letters, July 11) echoes the sentiments of many experienced teachers when he implores the new Education Minister to halt the rushing through of Junior Cert reform.

It is of great concern that the proposed changes will not benefit the students and may in fact devalue a system of education, which, in spite of its faults, is acknowledged worldwide as producing well rounded individuals. I request minister Jan O’Sullivan to plan carefully any changes to an exam that has many advantages in its present format. As we often inform our students – fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

MARY CARROLL

CLARA RD, TULLAMORE, CO OFFALY

CHANGING THE ISRAELI NARRATIVE

Israeli bombs rain down on Gaza again, to date killing 103 people, wounding over 700, making many homeless and traumatising a trapped population living under an illegal land, sea and air siege.

Gaza’s hospitals are struggling to cope; according to Medical Aid for Palestine, the list of zero stock medicines is now 139 items, almost one-third of essential medicines.

In the West Bank, 936 Palestinians have been arrested since mid-June, and at least nine have been killed.

Yet the Irish media consistently presents the Israeli narrative of its actions being “retaliation”, simply ignoring that Israel is the occupier, the aggressor, has an army, an air force, a navy and the financial and political support of the US and the EU. As the bodies pile up in Gaza, the press here continues to dehumanise Palestinians and disregard their humanity by prioritising Israel’s interests and its voice.

This week marks the 10th anniversary of the International Court of Justice ruling that Israel’s wall, snaking far beyond the Green Line into Palestinian land, is illegal, yet there has been no sanction on that state for this or any other of its breaches of international law.

Meanwhile, the Irish Government continues to trade with Israel and oppose the call from Palestinian civil society for BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions).

ZOE LAWLOR

DOORADOYLE PARK, LIMERICK

PAPAL CUP FINAL

The two Popes will watch the World Cup together. One Argentinian, the other German. After the final whistle, they will get their ball and have a kick-around in the Vatican.

If there are any disputes about offside, handball or foul play, which Pope will have the final say – given that they are both infallible?

ED TOAL

DUBLIN 4

Irish Independent

Quiet day

July 13, 2014

13July2014 Quiet day

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. A quiet day

ScrabbleIwin, but gets over 400. perhaps Marywill win tomorrow.

Obituary:

Frank Mumford – obituary

Frank Mumford was a master marionettist whose characterful puppets entertained royalty but were occasionally considered a little too racy by the censors

Frank Mumford in 1947 with his wife, Maisie, and their puppets Fyodor and Mademoiselle ZiziCREDIT: Courtsey of Frank Mumford Archive

Frank Mumford with his wife, Maisie, and their puppets Fyodor and Mademoiselle Zizi Photo: Courtsey of Frank Mumford Archive

6:51PM BST 12 Jul 2014

CommentsComments

Frank Mumford, who has died aged 95, was a master of marionettes whose career in variety spanned eight decades.

After the Second World War, he and his wife, Maisie, created a speciality act featuring 2ft-tall puppets with large heads and scaled-down bodies. Their line-up included hippos, skating cats, skeletons, dancers , a matador and bull — and their most famous creation, Mademoiselle Zizi, a diminutive chanteuse based on Lana Turner and Gypsy Rose Lee.

Frank Mumford designed the puppets, carving the heads and hands and making the costumes — one of Zizi’s gowns, lined in shocking pink, was designed by Schiaparelli. The Mumfords gave each character every nuance of natural movement, from a belly dancer seductively removing her veil to Zizi demurely dabbing her face with a handkerchief.

Zizi was once described in a newspaper as “sex appeal on strings” and after one show in Juan-les-Pins she was named “Miss Venus of the Cote d’Azur”. The Birmingham Watch Committee, however, took a less favourable view and banned her at the Birmingham Hippodrome for kissing men in the audience.

The Mumfords played top London nightspots — including the Coconut Grove, Grosvenor House, Ciro’s, the Embassy and the Dorchester — and variety shows and cabarets around the world .

In the 1950s they performed at private parties for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in Paris, and had a two-week run in Monaco performing for Prince Rainier and Princess Grace. “Princess Grace hardly spoke, but Prince Rainier was absolutely easy to chat to,” Mumford recalled. “He was the one I had to go to for Zizi to kiss, but after about 10 shows he got fed up with it.”

The Mumfords made many television appearances in Britain, working at Alexandra Palace in the early days of children’s television . Mumford carved the early versions of the Watch with Mother puppet character Andy Pandy and also featured in Time for Tich (1963-4) alongside the ventriloquist Ray Alan’s dummy Tich and his pet duck Quackers.

Mumford’s last public appearance was in 2004 – 72 years after he had first appeared on stage with his creations aged 14.

Ernest Frank Mumford was born in north London on July 12 1918, a late addition to a large family. He was a solitary child who, while recovering from mumps at the age of six, amused himself by making a miniature theatre from a Maynards sweet box. “I cut a proscenium in the front and had curtains and cut figures out of magazines with hairpins to hold them,” he recalled. But it was when his drama teacher gave him the book Marionettes and How to Make Them by the American puppeteer Tony Sarg that he found his vocation. Originally billed as “Master Mumford and His Marionettes”, he played London’s Wood Green Empire in 1932.

The following year he had a stand of puppets at a School Boys’ Hobbies Exhibition at Alexandra Palace and, after leaving school, got a job at Edmonds of Wood Green making window displays. There, to bring customers in, he created a p uppet theatre, performing afternoon shows and special ones at Christmas. In his late teens he and some friends founded a company and began playing at small theatres around London.

In the late 1930s he met his future wife, Maisie Tierney, who was then working at Morleys department store in Brixton. She joined his act in 1938, but the outbreak of war the following year brought things to a temporary halt.

After training as an RAMC medical assistant, in 1943 Mumford joined the 16th (Parachute) Field Ambulance surgical team, and was first stationed in North Africa. He married Maisie on leave in July 1944, but in September, while working in a hospital at Arnhem, he was taken prisoner and saw out the rest of the war in a PoW camp.

Returning home the following spring, he transferred to the Central Pool of Artists (the official provider of live entertainment to the Armed Forces), and put together a two-hour touring show entitled “Stars on Strings” for the Stars in Battledress organisation. It toured air bases, was manned by 11 staff and had almost 100 puppets. The show was on the road for six months until Mumford was demobbed in 1946.

During the Forties, the Mumfords signed with several London agents. As well as their puppet shows, Frank designed full-scale pantomimes, sets and costumes for Lucan and McShane Productions and for the music-hall star George Robey. Later they were managed by Lew and Leslie Grade.

In 1947 they created the two-handed act for which they would become best known, featuring larger puppets to suit venues such as the Hackney Empire. Two years later they won their first engagement overseas — a three-month contract at Le Boeuf sur le Toit in Paris, where they got to know stars and celebrities including Charlie Chaplin, Jean Cocteau and Elsa Schiaparelli. In the 1950s they signed to MCA Paris — 90 per cent of their work at this time was in Europe.

As well as designing his own act, Mumford designed and made costumes for others, including Boule Blanche, a cabaret in Montparnasse. He also designed the interior of the Mocambo nightclub on the Champs-Élysées, where the Mumfords played for several seasons.

After Maisie’s death in 1985, Frank carried on alone, giving his last performance at the Leeds City Varieties. But he never stopped planning for future appearances.

Though some were lost or stolen, Frank kept many of his puppets and masses of archive material. Last November a documentary of his life, An Attic Full of Puppets, made by Richard Butchins, was shown at the Victoria & Albert Museum as part of the Suspense London Puppetry Festival 2013.

Mumford, a theosophist who followed the teachings of Madame Blavatsky, lived life to the full and did not believe that death was the end. His last words were: “I am OK.”

He and Maisie had no children, but delighted in the company of friends and family.

Frank Mumford, born July 12 1918, died July 4 2014

Guardian:

I was intrigued to hear the latest big idea from the shadow education minister, Tristram Hunt, announcing “master teachers” and a “royal college” of teaching as the key to moving from inconsistent teaching to the sunlit uplands of Singaporean wonderfulness (the practice is imported from elsewhere, so it’s bound to be better), “‘Master teachers’ set to be new classroom elite“, News.

Whoever came up with this educational nomenclature had to scratch their heads a bit. After all, we’ve already had “advanced skills teachers” (remember them?) and “excellent teachers” (boring), so this new superlative has been wheeled in, presumably, as an antidote for “boring old mediocre qualified teachers” (like me?).

As for the royal college, I have no doubt that a heraldic device and the imprimatur of our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth will help avoid a repeat of the General Teaching Council (RIP). Yes, it is easy to be cynical as we are living through an era of educational policy made on the hoof designed to spin a good headline, and opposition to it designed not to frighten those voters who believe this very same spin.

I do hope when I fly off for my summer hols I have a master pilot as against just a boring old mediocre one. Crashing is rarely desirable whether at an aeronautical or policy level.

Simon Uttley, headmaster

Saint John Bosco College

London SW19

Religion and the right to die

Catherine Bennett argues that religious campaigners against Lord Falconer’s assisted dying bill are dishonest to use arguments that will “make sense to those who do not share Christian beliefs” (“Religious activists have too much say over our right to die“, Comment).

For years, religious groups have only been grudgingly included in public debates, provided that they assent to the principle that they should apply secular reason and use secular language. It’s strange that, when they do so, they are accused of lying. Regardless, it is not the religious who stand in the way of a “right to die”, but parliament and the courts. Bennett, and others who loudly complain that the campaign for assisted dying is a campaign against the imposition of religious values are the intellectual equivalents of Luis Suárez – they bite the religious players instead of playing the policy ball.

Paul Bickley

Director, Political Programme

Theos, London SW1

Richard Hannay is no Holmes

I can’t agree with Robert McCrum (“The 100 Best Novels“, New Review) that Richard Hannay, the hero of John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps, was “a cross between Sherlock Holmes and James Bond”.

Hannay was as thick as two short planks and would have appeared in a Sherlock Holmes story only as a foil to the quick mind of the great sleuth, in the same way as Dr Watson and Inspector Lestrade.

However, I think Mr McCrum is quite right to identify Hannay as a role model for Bond. Like Ian Fleming, Buchan has his hero charging all over the world in cars, trains and aeroplanes, dressing and talking like a toff while occasionally behaving like a hooligan and, above all, managing to bungle every assignment he is sent on (well, right up until the last scene, anyway).

No wonder the Bond franchise was described on the cover of one of the old Pan paperbacks as “supersonic John Buchan”.

John Tavner

Dedham

Essex

Economic lesson from the past

In the item “Growth is good, but only the right kind – and only if it makes life better for all of us” (Business), Ed Balls is quoted as stating: “The struggle to prove that a dynamic market economy and a fair society can go hand in hand remains to be won.”

Although not an economist, I would suggest that this was already more than adequately proven by the Soziale Marktwirtschaft (social market economy) policy adopted by Germany’s first postwar economics minister, Ludwig Erhard. This policy, I understand, was a major contributory factor to the German Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle) and to prosperity across a broad range of the population, coupled with the necessary safety nets for the more disadvantaged in society – the old, the sick, and the unemployed.

Richard Clark

Boston

Lincs

Tartan gone barmy

If the cringeworthy uniform to be worn by Scots competitors at the Commonwealth Games is an example of Scottish decision making, it will do much to swell the no vote in the independence referendum. Frankly, one would not do this to a sofa!

John Eoin Douglas

Edinburgh

Independent:

While I can see that the EU judgment on “the right to be forgotten” has caused problems for journalists, it seems absurd for Jane Merrick to describe it as a curtailment of liberty, or even to say that “it is not a great time for journalism” (6 July). The great journalists of the past somehow managed without the internet at all; and as Merrick herself points out, in Egypt three Al-Jazeera journalists have been imprisoned for seven years: that certainly is a curtailment of liberty, with which the loss of access to some facts on Google can hardly be compared.

John Dakin

Dunstable, Bedfordshire

Last Sunday you published a century-old photograph of King George V with various dignitaries including one you described as “Henri Poincaré, President of France”. But the first name of President Poincaré was Raymond. You have confused him with his cousin, the mathematician Henri Poincaré, he of the Poincaré Conjecture. Henri Poincaré, like all mathematicians and almost all scientists, is little-known to the general public but as a historical figure he is incomparably more important than his cousin. He counts among the most influential mathematicians of all time, in the class of Gauss, Euler, Hilbert and Newton.

Professor Gregory Sankaran

University of Bath

I loved your coverage of the first stage of the Tour de France (6 July), but Simon Turnbull had to go and spoil it. In an article sprinkled with “t’ Tour” references he tells us that the accents he heard on the walk into Harrogate were mostly of “the Yorkshire derivation”. Well, fancy that! It is Yorkshire, after all. Can’t you simply rejoice that the Tour has come to Yorkshire without constantly harping on about the “Northernness” of it? OK, so it’s in the North. Get over it.

Pippa Lewer

Morpeth, Northumberland

I’m not sure why DJ Taylor thinks the number of middle managers is in decline (“Where have all the middle managers gone?” 6 July). As a union officer I represent a range of them, even though it might surprise some sections of the media that such people are often members of a trade union these days.

He is on much stronger ground when he argues that the world of work has changed from the time when it was perfectly acceptable to do a competent day’s work without the need to work in the evenings and at weekends. The use of email and the internet far from reducing workloads, has in fact created many new possibilities to check things and tell those who previously didn’t know, and probably didn’t need to know, what the outcome is.

One might conclude that the workplace has simply become a less pleasant place than it was some years ago, until one recalls that at least these days it is not always quite so dominated by white men in suits.

Keith Flett

London N17

Katy Guest is wrong to say the landline is dead (“Long live good manners”, 6 July). For although mobile usage continues to grow, many keep a landline as part of a package that includes internet access. And as long as the cost of phoning a mobile remains high, there will be many of us sticking to the more traditional technology who do not want to be at everybody’s beck and call all day.

Tim Mickleburgh

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

I have never used either a computer or a mobile phone. I am comfortable in a world of one-to-one contact, aided by pen, paper, print and post, with the very occasional phonecall. And this letter is, of course, handwritten.

David Seymour

London SE4

How exactly does removing a lobster and two brown crabs “from a fisherman’s lost pot” constitute foraging? (“Lunch on the Beach”, New Review, 6 July)? Where I come from we call that theft.

Janet Wynne Evans

London, W5

Times:

No excuse for vindictive media treatment of Harris

THANK you, Dominic Lawson, for having the courage to write the only sensible article on the sad and tawdry Rolf Harris business (“We’re painting Rolf out of history, an art perfected by Stalin”, Comment, last week). Why do we need to destroy every last vestige of his reputation? Harris’s life has been a mixture of good and bad — some of it very bad — but he is a human being deserving of a smidgen of compassion.

While we must sympathise with his victims, the vindictiveness of the media and some members of the public as they turn on a “celebrity” is disgusting to watch. Why are people claiming that a sentence of nearly six years for an 84-year-old is too lenient?

For one thing, at the time Harris’s crimes were committed, an offender was unlikely to have been punished in this way. We now have a growing number of elderly and infirm people being locked away. In Italy sex offenders over the age of 70 are apparently sentenced to house arrest. Something similar, plus fines and community service where feasible, would seem more appropriate — and cheaper — for men who no longer pose a threat of repeating their crimes.
Len Shackleton, London N8

UNFORGIVABLE

It is for Harris’s victims to forgive, but as a society we should find his actions unforgivable. Adults who betray the innocence or powerlessness of children with their despicable behaviour should be under no illusion that they are welcome in a decent society. Children’s lives are still being ruined by such crimes. The priority is to make sure it does not happen again.
Pat Dunphey, by email

LASTING EFFECT

As the partner of someone who suffers post-traumatic stress disorder from the effects of childhood abuse and is facing a life sentence with their trauma, any jail term for the perpetrators is too little.
Rob Cockburn, by email

QUESTIONING BETRAYAL

For me, aged 57 and an admirer of Harris when I was a child, the article expressed what many must be thinking. I agree that for his victims to claim their childhoods were betrayed is nonsense. If this were true, then a lot of people involved in the care of children when I was young should now be in prison.
Liz Arnold, London SE18

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

While the abuse Harris has been found guilty of is indefensible, the rush to destroy his reputation seems a grotesque overreaction. He is not the first creative person to have had an unsavoury personal life, and the humiliation to which he has been subjected seems a terrible-enough punishment.
Michael Moore, Malvern, Worcestershire

UK needs new runways for business take-off

MORE than six months ago the Airports Commission set out clear recommendations in its interim report on steps to avoid an airports capacity crunch, with the key recommendation being that London needs at least one new runway.

It is unacceptable that the government has thus far not responded to the commission’s clear recommendations.

We were delighted the government took on board the concerns of the business community two years ago and established the Airports Commission.

It should now follow through with the commitments it made, and take the tough decisions that Britain needs if it is to retain its international economic competitiveness. Six months have passed since the commission made its interim report and the lack of an official government response looks like wavering.

Heathrow has been full for a decade, Gatwick will be full by 2020 and all of London’s main airports will be at 96% capacity by the mid-2020s. This problem must be addressed with urgency. Political procrastination on a decision to build new runways is strangling the long-term growth potential of the British economy.

More than 20 emerging market destinations are served by daily flights from other European cities, but not from London. It is lack of political leadership that is causing Britain’s international connectivity to fall behind that of our competitors.

As members of the business community, we ask the politicians to respond to the commission’s view that at least one new runway is needed.

This issue is of strategic national importance. All parties that seek to be considered credible on the economy must go into the 2015 election expressing a clear commitment to be guided by the Airports Commission’s final report, including a commitment to build new runways. We urge a public statement on this issue before the end of July.

Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP; Michael Tobin, TelecityGroup; Michael Ward, Harrods; Paul Kelly, Selfridges; David Sleath, SEGRO; John King, House of Fraser; John Allan, Dixons Retail; Robert Elliott, Linklaters; Stephen Catlin, Catlin Group; Harriet Green, Thomas Cook Group; Sir Adrian Montague, 3i Group; Rebecca Kane, the O2; Toby Courtauld, Great Portland Estates; Samir Brikho, AMEC; Gavin Hayes, Director, Let Britain Fly; Harold Paisner, Senior Partner, Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP; Mark Preston, Group Chief Executive, Grosvenor Group; Mark Bensted OBE, Managing Director, Powerday PLC; Kevin Murphy, Chairman, ExCeL London; Iain Anderson, Director and Chief Corporate Counsel, Cicero Group; Mike Turner CBE, Chairman, Babcock International Group; Bob Rothenberg MBE, Senior Partner, Blick Rothenberg LLP; James Rook, Managing Director, Nimlok Ltd; Gordon Clark, Country Manager, Global Blue UK; Professor Ian Reeves CBE, Senior Partner, Synaps Partners LLP; David Partridge, Managing Partner, Argent LLP; Colin Stanbridge, Chief Executive, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Mark Lancaster, Chief Executive, SDL; Mark Reynolds, Chief Executive, Mace Group; George Kessler, Joint Deputy Chairman, Kesslers International; Sir Win Bischoff; Michael Oglesby CBE, Chairman, Bruntwood; Hugh Bullock, Senior Partner, Gerald Eve LLP; Inderneel Singh, General Manager, The May Fair Hotel; Des Gunewardena, Chairman and CEO, D&D London; Andrew Murphy, Retail Director, John Lewis Partnership; Richard Dickinson, Chief Executive, New West End Company; Ian Durant, Chairman, Capital & Counties Properties PLC; Mark Boleat, Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee, City of London Corporation; Baroness Jo Valentine, Chief Executive, London First; Surinder Arora, CEO and Founder, Arora Holdings Ltd; John Longworth, Director General, British Chambers of Commerce; Sue Brown, Senior Managing Director, FTI Consulting; Ric Lewis, Chief Executive, Tristan Capital Partners, Gary Forster, Executive Director, Turley; Simon Walker, Director General, Institute of Directors; Hugh Seaborn, Chief Executive, Cadogan; Vincent Clancy, Chief Executive Officer, Turner & Townsend; Tim Hancock, Managing Director, Terence O’Rourke Ltd; John Burns, Chief Executive, Derwent London

NHS duty to finance proven cancer therapies

AS A cancer specialist, I certainly want our patients to get high-quality care (“Dallaglio: NHS chiefs betrayed us on cancer”, News, and “Tackle cancer harder”, Focus, last week). Although medical evidence shows that stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy (SABR) can be effective for non-small-cell lung cancer — and NHS England routinely funds this — there is a lack of good research evidence that SABR is effective for other cancers.

While we keep emerging findings under review, our first duty has to be to fund cancer and other treatments that are proven to work. At a time when the NHS budget is not limitless, that has to be our priority.

Sean Duffy, National Clinical Director for Cancer, NHS England

ILL SPENT

We cannot afford to spend enough money on SABR, yet we give £414m to the Private Infrastructure Development Group (the agency charged with stimulating private sector growth in poor countries). Surely there must be an opening for a government that has got its priorities right. But where is it?

Roger Hook, Redruth, Cornwall

DANGEROUS GAME

It was nice to see families being encouraged to include their dogs in fun on the beach this summer (“Howzat! Games where everyone’s a winner”, Travel, last week). However, we would advise against trying to make a “dog trap”, digging a hole in the sand for a dog to fall into. Although your writer believes this is a “harmless wheeze”, it could cause distress and injury to the animal and an expensive trip to the vet, rather than a fun day out at the seaside.There are lots of ways that you and your four-legged friends can enjoy yourselves at dog-friendly beaches, including having a nice walk along the seafront, playing fetch with a ball or Frisbee and paddling in the waves. And remember never to leave your pet alone in the car.
Lisa Richards, RSPCA Dog Welfare Expert, Horsham, West Sussex


Poor pupil behaviour affects all teachers

IT IS not just newly trained teachers who are struggling to manage behaviour (“Teachers hit out at poor training”, News, last week). Research carried out by YouGov for the Teacher Support Network last year found that almost half of UK teachers think pupil behaviour has got worse in the past five years.

While those who had been in the profession for more than six years were far less likely than their newer colleagues to have been unable to teach effectively as a result of poor behaviour, longer-serving staff are significantly more likely to have experienced stress, anxiety or depression.

We not only need to look at training to prepare teachers better when they first begin in the classroom, but also at continual professional development to help staff advance and maintain these skills through long and successful careers.

Julian Stanley, Group Chief Executive, Teacher Support Network

FAST LEARNER

Having just completed training with Teach First, the charity mentioned in your article, I concede that come September I will probably be poorly equipped to deal with the plethora of challenges and potential objects that will be thrown at me, but that’s exactly what I signed up for. Teach First is a brilliant organisation that understands that motivation supersedes method and character supersedes knowledge.

If you want more training in behavioural management, do a standard postgraduate certificate in education. Don’t join a fast-track programme and then criticise it for not teaching you everything.

Christian Hacking, Newcastle

Points

REGIONAL DIFFERENCES

Your headline “By ’eck, there’s nowt so cool as 1m watch Le Tour de Yorkshire” (News, last week) led me to wonder if an article about London would be headed “Cor blimey, guv, would you Adam and Eve it”, or does patronising follow only a northern route?

Paul Allison, Liverpool

STEP OFF THE GAS

I have nothing but admiration for David Carslaw and other scientists who have bravely highlighted the scale of London’s nitrogen dioxide (NO2) problems (“Oxford Street is worst place in the world for diesel pollution”, News, last week). NO2 is a key indicator of the presence of the carcinogenic diesel exhaust problem. Urgent action is needed, including fitting exhaust filters to all buses, and shops must protect customers by using air filters. We also need the mayor to lead the world by banning diesel exhaust from the most polluted places, just as coal was banned so successfully 60 years ago this month by the City of London Corporation.

Simon Birkett, Founder and Director, Clean Air in London

ON THE BUSES

London’s overall level of air pollution is lower than in many world cities. We are serious about monitoring pollution levels and, unlike other cities, we monitor our most polluted, busiest streets with high volumes of traffic congestion, such as Oxford Street. We do, of course, know that buses and taxis are a big contributor to air pollution along Oxford Street, which is why the mayor has retired the 900 oldest buses, has retro-fitted hundreds more and will deliver 1,700 ultra-low-emissions hybrid buses by 2016. More than 3,000 of the oldest, most polluting taxis have been retired, and from 2018 all new taxis will be zero-emissions-capable.

Matthew Pencharz, Senior Adviser, Environment & Energy, to the London Mayor

FOOT TRAFFIC

There is only one answer to the Oxford Street nightmare and that is to pedestrianise it.

Peter Hartley, Westminster Living Streets

Birthdays

Craig Bellamy, footballer, 35; Tulisa Contostavlos, singer, 26; Harrison Ford, actor, 72; Neil Foulds, snooker player, 51; Ian Hislop, journalist, 54; Roger McGuinn, singer, 72; Erno Rubik, architect and inventor, 70; Wole Soyinka, poet and playwright, 80; Sir Patrick Stewart, actor, 74; David Storey, writer, 81

Anniversaries

1793 French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat is murdered in his bathtub; 1919 completion of the first non-stop aerial Atlantic round trip, by British airship R34; 1955 Ruth Ellis becomes last woman to be executed in Britain; 1985 Live Aid concerts staged at Wembley stadium, London, and John F Kennedy stadium, Philadelphia

Telegraph:

Take note: a slipper isn’t just for Christmas

M&S dominates slipper sales because it is one of the few shops to sell them year-round.

Marks & Spencer sells the lion's share of Britain's slippers each year

Marks & Spencer sells the lion’s share of Britain’s slippers each year Photo: bravo via getty images

6:58AM BST 12 Jul 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – Maybe M&S sells one-fifth of men’s slippers because they actually stock them all year round.

As a lifelong wearer, I have tried to buy them elsewhere and been told the store does not have them because “it is the wrong time of year”. “When is the right time?” I’ve asked. “Christmas, of course,” has been the response.

So what do I wear indoors for the rest of the year? Hobnail boots?

John Brandon
Tonbridge, Ke

SIR – The 5-1 defeat of Germany by England in 2000 led to a German root-and-branch overhaul of their game. They set aside the short-term financial interests of clubs and invested heavily in coaching; they now have 10 times as many top-qualified coaches as does England.

Now, Germany is in a World Cup final, while England’s campaign lasted six days.

Similar lessons can be drawn from the German business world, where they eschew fickle stock markets and implement policies designed to build a healthy economy in the long term. Despite the burden of unification, theirs is now the strongest economy in Europe. We need only look at what the Germans have done and copy them.

Dr David Cottam
Dormansland, Surrey

SIR – I watched the 1966 World Cup final in Bremen. When England won, to celebrate, my German friend and I drove to our favourite pub in my Triumph Vitesse with British number plates. Everywhere we stopped, people shouted “Gratuliere!” (Congratulations!) Of course we must be friends with Germany. We already are.

Peter Howard
Kingsbridge, Devon

SIR – I yield to nobody in my admiration of Germany but, having been stationed there for some years in the Army, visited Potsdam after the fall of the Wall, danced an Eightsome Reel under the Brandenburg Gate, and just returned from a Rhine cruise, I still find the country humourless, utterly law-abiding and boring. Give me rural Wiltshire every time.

Tim Deane
Tisbury, Wiltshire

SIR – “Let’s learn to love Germany” focused my mind on the failings of British post-war society, not only in terms of football, but also in the visual arts. Since the war, America has had Koons and Warhol. Germany has Anselm Kiefer and Gerhard Richter. We have Hirst and Emin.

Peter Goodfellow
Strathdon, Aberdeenshire

Order in Parliament

SIR – Can it be that John Bercow, the House of Commons Speaker, will see his nomination of an outsider to the post of the Clerk of the House go forward to the Queen for approval? Or will David Cameron refuse to endorse such an undoubted disaster? Let us hope this threat to the management of the House and the further empowering of an already over-ambitious Speaker is nipped quickly in the bud.

Richard D J Spicer
Stogumber, Somerset

SIR – I was for 42 years a clerk in the Parliament Office (the Lords’ equivalent of the Clerk of the House of Commons), and for my last 19 years, I was Fourth Clerk at the Table and head of the Judicial Office.

From my experience, I know how, if an outsider were appointed, it would shatter morale within the office.

Of course, some jobs are more interesting than others, but over the length of a career, I believe most clerks, in both Houses, would say they had fulfilling lives. Some, of course, fall away, lured by academia or higher salaries; but for those who stay the course, there is the great prize of reaching the top job.

To open up this post to someone not trained by decades of familiarity with parliamentary procedure is not only like offering the post of Lord Chief Justice to an industrialist; it is to return to the early 19th century and before, when Table appointments were bestowed as gifts within the patronage of ministers.

James Vallance White
London SW1

No peace for a pint

SIR – Am I alone in regretting the demise of the pub ?

One evening this week, as I tried to complete the Telegraph crossword over a pint in my local, I was disturbed by ear-damaging screeches from a tired baby, then astonished to see a toddler cycling around the bar at a furious pace.

I can cope with bedlam, but not when combined with kindergarten.

Mark Prior
Plymouth, Devon

Dancing ladies

SIR – I am concerned that the British Dance Council is considering banning same-sex dancing. The opportunity to see more beautiful women dancing is to be welcomed, not condemned.

If some women prefer to dance with each other, then that reduces the male obligation to get up and gyrate on the dance floor, rather than remain sitting down while continuing to enjoy conversation and drink.

Are we also to see the demise of cheerleading and famous nightclubs such as the Folies Bergère?

Edward Schuldt
New Malden, Surrey

SIR – Single sex couples may marry but not dance with one another?

Rev R P Calder
Portsmouth, Hampshire

Premature mail

SIR – Last week, forms for reclaiming tax or paying tax when someone dies, to be completed by the “Personal Representative of Mrs Gertrude Henderson”, arrived at my address.

I am Mrs Gertrude Maureen Henderson, and I am the only occupant of my house.

Should I return the forms or retain them until they are relevant?

G Maureen Henderson
Curry Rivel, Somerset

Solar energy

SIR – Greenpeace and others want the freedom to develop hundreds of new solar farms, heavily subsidised by domestic and commercial users of electricity, so that we can be as green as the Germans.

Solar panels produce power when the sun shines: primarily in summer and exclusively in daytime.

Electricity demand is the opposite:highest in winter and after dark. We shall still have to have conventional power stations, however many solar panels are plastered across the countryside.

The technology is already becoming outdated. Recent developments allow roads and driveways to be made of a new generation of solar panels that will not blight the land in the same way. And surely even with the existing technology, we should be using the roofs of public and industrial buildings before taking a single acre of agricultural production.

Did I dream that I read only last week of the ongoing decline in our ability to be self-sufficient in food production?

Richard Lutwyche
Cirencester, Gloucestershire

The scale of obesity

SIR – I have noticed that very few people’s bathrooms these days have weighing machines. This is a great change from the Fifties and Sixties, when all my friends and relations sported stylish scales on their bathroom floors.

Could this be because people prefer not to know their weight, and rely on the tightening of a waistband to tell them that they need to take notice of their increasing corpulence?

Would doctors and nurses risk unpopularity if they suggested to patients that they should buy a machine and regularly weigh themselves? Each morning, I weigh myself before breakfast, worry if a kilo goes on, and adjust my consumption accordingly.

Simon Edsor
London SW1

Escargot with salad

SIR – Many years ago we had a tortoise that ate snails. She held down the shell with one forefoot, pushed her head into the opening, and hauled out the occupant. Unfortunately this useful trait was offset by her penchant for young lettuces.

Elizabeth Champion

SIR – You report that Parliament is debating whether to opt in to the European Arrest Warrant (EAW). We are told that one reason for opting in is that it will make the job of the police across Europe easier.

I served 32 years in the police. The fact that it may make the job of the police easier is simply not a good enough reason to ride roughshod over the hard-won civil liberties of the citizens of Britain.

Graham S Scott
Hanging Heaton, West Yorkshire

SIR – The European Arrest Warrant should be opposed by all those who value civil liberties, since habeas corpus does not apply for those subject to it.

The prosecuting authorities do not have to supply any evidence whatsoever of a crime having been committed in order to get an accused person extradited to another European Union country. They simply have to fill out the forms correctly. In some member states, suspects can then be held for years without trial and in most EU countries there is no trial by jury.

The Liberal Democrats, who in the European Parliament were the prime movers of this measure, are its most vociferous advocates. They argue that it speeds up extradition. It seems extraordinary that anyone claiming to believe in human rights could be happy to see traditional legal safeguards abandoned in order to hurry up serious legal procedures that can have dramatic consequences for people’s lives. We should revert to the extradition agreements we have with numerous non-EU countries in relation to member states.

Graham Stringer MP (Lab)
London SW1

SIR – Karen Bradley, Minister for Modern Slavery and Organised Crime, writes in support of the European Arrest Warrant. This warrant cannot be acceptable to British people, unless the laws that protect our freedoms – including the presumption of innocence – and the prison conditions in which an accused person may be held, are equalised across the whole EU.

Furthermore, unless the EAW sets out a proper prima facie case giving a British judge the right to make a ruling, no one should be extradited.

Ideally, we should draw up an extradition protocol based on English law, and invite other nations to participate. However, being in the EU and subject to the provision that EU law takes precedence over English law, it can’t be done.

The Latvian, whose case Ms Bradley cites as being a benefit of the EAW, probably wouldn’t have been here in the first place if we still had control of our borders.

Don Anderson
London SW19

SIR – Karen Bradley is Minister for Modern Slavery and Organised Crime. I would have thought that she should be against it.

Jeremy Dawson
Wallingford, Oxfordshire

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

He writes of the “lost art, letter writing having almost been driven to extinction by email”, and I will add to that by the now modest telephone rates. Who remembers the days of one pound per minute call to the USA?

Donal, no doubt, has in mind the loss of personal correspondence but there is one outlet where letter writing thrives and that is in the penultimate page in the main section of your Sunday paper.

The Letters page is not only preserving the “art of letter writing” but it also provides a forum where the ordinary man and woman in the street can express their views on matters domestic and even international.

From my anecdotal observation this page is one of the most widely read in your paper. And once you continue, Madam, to alot space to the unpaid scribes, letter writing will survive, and perhaps even prosper.

Patrick Fleming, Glasnevin, Dublin

 


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